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PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN. lUustrated. 
PORTRAITS OF WOMEN. Illustrated. 
UNION PORTRAITS. lUustrated. 
CONFEDERATE PORTRAITS. Illustrated. 
LEE THE AMERICAN. Illustrated. 

HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY 

BOSTON AND NEW YORK 



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ABIGAIL SMITH ADAMS 



CT 



PORTRAITS OF 
AMERICAN WOMEN/ 

By 

GAMALIEL BRADFORD 




BOSTON AND NEW YORK. 

HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY 

(X\ft Stitietj^tie ^icz0 CambciCige 

1919 






COPYRIGHT, 1917, 1918, 1919, BY THE ATLANTIC MONTHLY COMPANY 

COPYRIGHT, 19I9, BY NORTH AMERICAN REVIEW CORPORATION 

COPYRIGHT, I919, BY GAMALIEL BRADFORD 



ALL RIGHTS RESERVED 



TO 
H. F. B. 



II y a trois choses quej'ai beaucoup aimSes 
et auxguelles je n'ai jamais rien compris: 
les femmes, la peinture, et la musique. 

FONTENELLE 

Rien ne vit que par le detail. 

Sainte-Beuve 



PREFACE 

This book might almost be called "Portraits of New 
England Women," since, with the exception of Miss 
Willard, all of the subjects studied in it were born in 
New England. As I had devoted a good many years to 
distinguished representatives of other parts of the 
country, I felt at liberty to confine my researches for a 
brief period to souls nearer home. In the study of women 
it is especially difficult to obtain satisfactory material, 
and material affecting the lives of New England women 
was most readily accessible to me. At the same time, 
of the seven New England characters here portrayed, 
at least three, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Margaret Fuller 
Ossoli, and Louisa May Alcott, are so thoroughly iden- 
tified with the country at large that one hardly thinks 
of their birthplace. Abigail Adams, Mary Lyon, and 
Emily Dickinson are known to a great number of their 
countrywomen and Sarah Alden Ripley ought to be so. 
I hope, moreover, to follow this series with another, 
embracing prominent women of other sections. 

I am under deep obligation to various persons for 
assistance in my work. Mrs. Ripley's grandchildren 
have kindly supplied me with numerous letters, without 
which it would have been impossible to make an ade- 
quate study of her. Miss Charlotte A. Hedge has lent 
me letters of Margaret Fuller to Dr. F. H. Hedge, and 
the Boston Public Library has placed its valuable 
Ossoli manuscripts at my disposal. Mount Holyoke 
College has enabled me to make use of a most interest- 
ing collection of reminiscences of Mary Lyon. Mr. 



X PREFACE 

C. K. Bolton has allowed me to examine the corre- 
spondence of Frances Willard with his mother, Mrs. 
Sarah Knowles Bolton. And Mr. McGregor Jenkins 
has lent me letters and has more especially furnished 
me with significant personal memories of Emily Dick- 
inson. To all these collaborators I am very grateful. 

Gamaliel Bradford 

Wellesley Hills, Massachtisetts 
September 30, 19 19 



CONTENTS 

I. Abigail Adams i 

II. Sarah Alden Ripley 33 

III. Mary Lyon 65 

IV. Harriet Beecher Stowe 99 
V. Margaret Fuller Ossoli 131 

VI. Louisa May Alcott 165 

VII. Frances Elizabeth Willard 195 

VIII. Emily Dickinson 227 

Notes 259 

Index - 271 



ILLUSTRATIONS 

Abigail Smith Adams Frontispiece 

Sarah Alden Ripley 34 

Mary Lyon 66 

Harriet Beecher Stowe 100 

Margaret Fuller Ossoli 132 

Louisa May Alcott 166 

Frances Willard 196 

Emily Dickinson 228 



PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 

I 

ABIGAIL ADAMS 



, CHRONOLOGY 

Abigail Smith. 

Born in Weymouth, Massachusetts, November ii, 1744. 

Married John Adams, October 25, 1764. ' 

In Europe 1 784-1 788. 

Died at Quincy, Massachusetts, October 28, 1818. 



PORTRAITS OF 
AMERICAN WOMEN 

I 

ABIGAIL ADAMS 

I 

The wife of President John Adams and the mother of 
President John Quincy Adams is sometimes accused of 
being more man than woman in her temperament. This 
is a mistake. She was a woman and a charming one, 
even in an age when there was no offense in saying that 
women differed from men in their hearts as well as in 
their garments. 

She had a large and varied life. Starting from a 
peaceful New England parsonage, where she learned 
the love of God and good breeding, she passed a quiet 
girlhood, then plunged, in her early married days, into 
the fierce tumult of the Revolution, managed her family 
and estate during her husband's long periods of absence, 
stood at his side in the presence of the sovereigns of 
Europe, reigned as the president's wife over the society 
of Washington, and shared the long post-presidential 



4 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 

retirement in the Quincy home. She was always ade- 
quate to every situation and said the word and did the 
deed that dignity and high patriotism required of her. 
But it is impossible to read her many letters and not feel 
that through it all she was charmingly and delicately a 
woman. 

She herself understood and appreciated the softer 
•elements of the feminine character. In England she 
complains somewhat of the lack of these qualities : " The 
softness, peculiarly characteristic of our sex, and which 
is so pleasing to the gentlemen, is wholly laid aside here 
for the masculine attire and manners of the Amazo- 
nians."^ She herself is feminine in the deeper things 
of life, in the tenderness of her affection and in the 
bitterness of her mourning, when those she loves are 
lost to her, as in her profound grief over her mother's 
death. She is just as feminine in those lighter trifles 
of fashion and dress which are supposed — by men — 
to form the chief part of woman's conversation and 
correspondence. 

She was a thorough woman in her domestic interests, 
in that busy, often trivial, care which sustains the un- 
conscious felicity of home. She looked after her hus- 
band's comfort as well as his greatness. In the midst of 
shrewd advice as to his moral bearing among those 



ABIGAIL ADAMS "5 

who were making the American nation, she murmurs a 
housewife's anxiety about his personal appearance : " I 
feel concerned lest your clothes should go to rags, hav- 
ing nobody to take any care of you in your long absence ; 
and then, you have not with you a proper change for 
the seasons." ^ She feels, sometimes a little impatiently, 
the hurry of nothing which m.akes up domestic life. 
Her health ? She believes she has little health. " Much 
of an invalid," ^ she calls herself casually, and elsewhere 
admits that her "health is infirm," and that she is not 
"built for duration."^ But, bless me, she has no time 
to think about health, or talk about it, or write about it. 
The machine must go as long as it will. 

How apt and vivid is her sketch of the interruptions 
that puncture the whole course of her home existence! 
She rises at six o'clock and makes her own fire, "in 
imitation of his Britannic Majesty." She calls her serv- 
ants — repeatedly, and notes that in future she will hire 
only those who will stir at one call. Breakfast gets on 
the table. She would like to eat it. A man comes with 
coal. A man comes with pigs. Another man comes for 
something else, and another. Meanwhile, where is 
breakfast? And what flavor has it? "Attended to all 
these concerns. A little out of sorts that I could not 
finish my breakfast. Note; never to be incommoded 



6 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 

with trifles." ° You think you are reading Madame de 
Sevigne. 

Yet she loves her home with all a woman's true, deep 
affection. Men often claim a speciality of home loving 
and decry a woman's restlessness. They do not realize 
that they shake off the burden of life when they enter 
their own doors. A woman takes it up. Yet few men's 
love is really deeper than a woman's for the home she 
has created and every day sustains. It was so with this 
lady. There are cares, indeed. But what is life with- 
out cares ? "I have frequently said to my friends, when 
they have thought me overburdened with care, I would 
rather have too much than too little. Life stagnates 
without action."^ And though she saw and knew all 
the diversions of society and all the heights and depths 
of the great outer world, she clung steadfastly to the 
simplest maxim of a woman's heart. "Well-ordered 
home is my chief delight, and the affectionate, domestic 
wife, with the relative duties which accompan}^ that 
character, my highest ambition."^ 

And as she was a woman in her love of home, so she 
was thoroughly a woman in her love of her children and 
in her care for them. If they are ill, she watches at their 
bedsides with the tenderest solicitude, delights in their 
recovery, and mourns almost beyond consolation when 



ABIGAIL ADAMS 7 

one is untimely snatched away. She herself superin- 
tends their early studies, and most thoughtfully and 
carefully. She does indeed regret her own lack of book 
learning, because she has none to impart to her daugh- 
ters; but perhaps, even in this regard, she was less 
deficient than might be thought. She keeps little Johnny 
at her knee reading aloud Rollin's "Ancient History," 
and hopes that he will come to " entertain a fondness for 
it." ^ She vastly prefers Dr. Watts's " Moral Songs for 
Children " to modern frivolities of " Jack and Jill " and 
" Little Jack Horner." ^ Would she have liked " Rollo," 
I wonder, or would she not? 

Whatever the value of her literary teaching, her 
moral lessons were as homely, as sturdy, and as lofty 
as those of a matron of Plutarch. On this point she was 
fully supported by the resonant precepts of her husband : 
"Root out every little thing. Weed out every mean- 
ness. Make them great and manly. Teach them to 
scorn injustice, ingratitude, cowardice, and falsehood."^** 
But she needed no precepts from any one. Out of her own 
heart she taught these things, and her apostrophe to her 
son, when he left her for the great world, is simply the 
flower of lessons and influences established many years 
before : " Dear as you are to me, I would much rather 
you should have found your grave in the ocean you have 



8 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 

crossed, or that any untimely death should crop you in 
your infant years, than see you an immoral, profligate, 
or graceless child." ^^ 

If one wants evidence of this maternal loftiness and 
maternal tenderness combined, one has only to open the 
Diary of John Quincy Adams and to see how reverent, 
how affectionate, and how obviously sincere are the 
numerous references to his mother's care and devotion. 
" My mother was an angel upon earth. She was a min- 
ister of blessing to all human beings within her sphere 
of action. . . . She has been to me more than a mother. 
She has been a spirit from above watching over me for 
good, and contributing by my mere consciousness of her 
existence to the comfort of my life." ^^ " There is not a 
virtue that can abide in the female heart but it was the 
ornament of hers." ^^ Yet the younger Adams was not 
one inclined to overestimate human nature, even in those 
most nearly bound to him. His devotion to his mother's 
memory was as persistent as it was profound. When he 
himself had reached his seventy-sixth year, the mere 
reading of some of her letters threw him into a state of 
singular excitement. "I actually sobbed as he read, 
utterly unable to suppress my emotion. Oh, my mother ! 
Is there anything on earth so affecting to me as thy 
name? so precious as thy instructions to my childhood, 
so dear as the memory of thy life? " ^^ 



ABIGAIL ADAMS 9 

We may safely say, then, that this was a true woman 
in her home and with her children. She was a woman 
likewise in the freshness and vivacity of her social re- 
lations. When she writes to her granddaughter, "Culti- 
vate, my dear, those lively spirits and that sweet inno- 
cence and contentedness, which will rob the desert of its 
gloom, and cause the wilderness to bloom around you," ^'^ 
we know that she herself had cultivated these things 
with assiduity and success. She was in no way depend- 
ent upon society and there were times when she dis- 
tinctly shrank from it, when its duties were a burden and 
its forms and ceremonials a wearisome embarrassment. 
Her happiest, sunniest hours were no doubt passed with 
her husband and children in the busy retirement of her 
Quincy home. But at different periods of her life she 
was called upon to mingle in all sorts of social circles, 
the loftiest as well as the most brilliant, and everywhere 
she bore herself with the grace and ease and dignity 
of a refined and accomplished lady. 

She had those most essential ingredients of the social 
spirit, a woman's quick sense of the varied interest of 
human character and a woman's sympathetic insight 
into the workings of the Human heart. And she had, 
also, a rare power of expression, so that her account of 
striking scenes and distinguished people has often some- 



10 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 

thing of the snap and sparkle of Lady Mary Montagu 
or Madame de Sevigne. How admirable, for instance, 
is her picture of Madame Helvetius, the friend of Frank- 
lin, ending, "I hope, however, to find amongst the French 
ladies manners more consistent with my ideas of de- 
cency, or I shall be a mere recluse." ^® Or, for a briefer 
sketch, take that of Mrs. Cranch, who is " a little, smart, 
sprightly, active woman and is wilted just enough to last 
to perpetuity." ^^ 

And Mrs. Adams's thorough womanliness showed not 
only in her personal relations, in her daily interests, in 
her social glitter and vivacity, but in deeper and more 
subtle sensibilities, which many true women are without. 
She had an excellent control over her nerves, was quite 
capable of stoical heroism, as we shall see later, but the 
nerves were there and show, through all her mastery. 
She would have readily admitted, with the lady of 
Shakespeare, 

I am a woman, therefore full of fears. 
Or, as she herself puts it, " I never trust myself long with 
the terrors which sometimes intrude themselves upon 
me." ^^ The nerves responded to all sorts of other sug- 
gestions also. To art perhaps not so much. The early 
training of Puritan New England did not altogether fit 
nerves for aesthetic sensibility. Yet her enthusiasm over 



ABIGAIL ADAMS ii 

the opera in Paris is far more than a mere conventional 
ecstasy, and the possibiHties of music for her are richly 
indicated in a casual sentence: "I cannot describe to 
you how much I was affected the other day with a Scotch 
song, which was sung to me by a young lady in order to 
divert a melancholy hour." ^^ 

Nature touched her even more than music. The poets 
she knew were those of the eighteenth century and her 
formal description has rather too much of eighteenth- 
century zephyrs and vernal airs. But it is easy to get 
through this to her real, deep love of bare New England 
pastures and wide meadows and the homely country- 
side that had woven itself into her life. And as the 
nerves thrilled to old Scotch airs, so they quivered and 
melted under the coming of May days. "The approach 
of spring unstrings my nerves, and the south winds 
have the same effect upon me which Brydone says the 
Sirocco winds have upon the inhabitants of Sicily." ^^ 

In short, she was a shifting, varying, mercurial 
creature, as perhaps we all are, but she certainly more 
than many of us. "Oh, why," she exclaims, "was I 
born with so much sensibility, and why, possessing it, 
have I so often been called to struggle with it? " ^^ One 
moment she is "lost and absorbed in a flood of tender- 
ness." ^^ The next " my heart is as light as a feather and 



12 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 

my spirits are dancing." ^^ To-day she writes: "I am 
a mortal enemy to anything but a cheerful counte- 
nance and a merry heart." ^^ And then to-morrow : " I 
have many melancholy hours, when the best company 
is tiresome to me and solitude the greatest happiness 
I can enjoy." ^° 

So it can hardly be claimed that she was too stoical 
and too philosophical and too stern-hearted to be a 
woman. 

II 

But Mrs. Adams lived in a tremendous time. In her 
early married years her husband's political duties left 
her alone to do both her work and his in the midst of 
difficulty and danger. Later she was called upon to 
stand by his side through great crises of statesmanship 
and to give him counsel in triumph and comfort in de- 
feat. She performed all these functions nobly, and to do 
it required something more than the usual feminine con- 
tributions to domestic felicity. She had a woman's 
heart, a woman's nerves, a woman's tenderness; but 
little indeed of what a man requires to make his way in 
life was lacking to her. 

She had a high and fine intelligence. Elaborate edu- 
cation she had not, nor any woman in that day. She 



ABIGAIL ADAMS 13 

herself complains that she was not sent to school, that 
ill health prevented any systematic mental training, that 
reading and writing and the simplest arithmetic, with 
a few accomplishments, were all that was thought neces- 
sary for her or any of her sex. In later life she be- 
wailed this state of things and urged that a wide and 
rational spiritual culture was as necessary and as suit- 
able for women as for men. 

But we all know that education does not make intel- 
ligence and that natural intelligence can supply almost 
everything that education gives to either man or woman. 
After all, schooling is but an inadequate and apologetic 
substitute for brains. Brains Mrs. Adams had, and 
needed no substitute. From her childhood her keen 
and active wit was working, observing, acquiring, re- 
jecting, laying by for future use. She was always a 
wide reader, — read and quoted Shakespeare and Pope 
and the eighteenth-century poets and essayists. Her 
acuteness and independence of judgment are well shown 
in this comment on the Drama of Moliere: ''1 send 
with this the first volume of Moliere and should be glad 
of your opinion of them. I cannot be brought to like 
them. It seems to me to be a general want of spirit, 
at the close of every one I have felt disappointed. There 
are no characters but what appear unfinished and he 



14 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 

seems to have ridiculed vice without engaging us to 
virtue; and though he sometimes makes us laugh, yet 
't is a smile of indignation. . . . Moliere is said to have 
been an honest man, but sure he has not copied from 
his own heart. Though he has drawn many pictures 
of real life, yet all pictures of life are not to be exhib- 
ited upon the stage." ^® Above all, she read the classics, 
of course in translation; even writers minor or less 
known, like Polybius. Plutarch she nourished her heart 
on, and when she signed her letters to her husband, 
"Portia," it was partly an eighteenth-century affecta- 
tion, but much more that the iron of old Roman virtue 
had entered into the very substance of her soul. 

Also, her intelligence reached far beyond books. She 
had that penetrating, analytical instinct which plucks 
wisdom from the actions and motives of men and which 
especially lays the foundation of such wisdom in a close, 
dispassionate study of the observer's own heart. " You 
know I make some pretensions to physiognomy,"^'^ she 
writes. The pretensions were justified. She saw many 
faces in her life and read them attentively, curiously, 
and always with profit. 

But the finest testimony to Mrs. Adams's intelligence 
is the letters addressed to her by her husband and her 
son. Both were men of wide and deep reflection. Both 



ABIGAIL ADAMS 15 

touched perpetually the gravest problems of statesman- 
ship and of human conduct generally. Both discussed 
these problems with wife and mother as they would 
have discussed them together, or with the wisest men 
of their time. Would this have been possible with 
any but a mind of the broadest grasp and keenest 
power of comprehension? 

And the intelligence was progressive as well as vigor- 
ous. Mrs. Adams's energetic protest to her husband 
against the legal and political subjection of women in 
that day has been often quoted and justly praised, — it 
is as dignified as it is energetic: "That your sex are 
naturally tyrannical is a truth so thoroughly established 
as to admit of no dispute," ^^ and she urges such an 
adjustment of law as may check that tyranny. In re- 
ligious matters there is the same broad, sober common- 
sense. Mrs. Adams had been brought up in the strictest 
New England Calvinism, and always retained the in- 
tense earnestness of that creed and its disposition to 
try all things by the standard of conscience. But big- 
otry and intellectual cowardice were alike abhorrent to 
her, and she had no inclination to judge others harshly. 
" True, genuine religion is calm in its inquiries, deliber- 
ate in its resolves, and steady in its conduct." ^^ And 
besides common-sense she infused into her piety some- 



1 6 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 

thing of that sunshine which was the sorest need of 
Calvinism and for want of which it perished: "I am 
one of those who are willing to rejoice always. My 
disposition and habits are not of the gloomy kind. I 
believe that ' to enjoy is to obey.' " ^^ 

But vigorous and clear as Mrs. Adams's mind was 
in the abstract, its energy showed still more in practical 
matters, as was natural and necessary with the life she 
lived. We have seen that she could be perfectly con- 
tented with simple home surroundings and regular 
pursuits. But she wanted neither sloth nor lethargy. 
"Confinement does not suit me or my family," ^^ she 
wrote to her granddaughter. And again: "Man was 
made for action, and for bustle, too, I believe. I am 
quite out of conceit with calms." ^^ She had her share 
of furious housewifery, and no sooner gets on shipboard 
than she sets to work with "scrapers, mops, brushes, 
infusions of vinegar, etc.,"^^ to produce the neatness 
and order which she maintained daily at home without 
such appeal to violent measures. 

And her domestic economy went far beyond mops and 
brushes. During her husband's long and necessary ab- 
sences, she undertook not only the ordinary duties of 
wife and mother, but the general management of farms 
and property, and performed these functions most effi- 



ABIGAIL ADAMS 17 

ciently, as is shown by the commendation which she 
receives from her loving partner quite as frequently as 
advice. She makes purchases and sales, she hires help, 
she garners crops. Through it all she carries her own 
burden and avoids, so far as possible, filling her letters 
with complaints. "I know the weight of public cares 
lie so heavy upon you that I have been loath to mention 
your own private ones." ^^ 

In dealing with that greatest and ever-present and 
insoluble problem of married and all other life, money, 
Mrs. Adams herself asserts that she was thrifty and 
prudent. So do all the rest of us, all man and woman- 
kind. But in this case I think we may believe the state- 
ment. There was certainly no niggardliness. The 
husband was too large for petty cheese-paring. "You 
know I never get or save anything by cozening or 
classmating," ^"^ he writes, and his wife was like him. 
She maintained a sober decency and propriety in her 
own expenditure, and through all the cramped revolu- 
tionary time, when dollars were even rarer than hope, 
she always kept and used the means of relieving those 
whose straits were worse than her own. But she under- 
stood thoroughly both the theory of economy and its 
practice. Few professional students would have an- 
alyzed financial conditions more keenly than she does in 



1 8 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 

the long letter written to her husband at an early stage 
of the war.^® And the practical strain shows in her 
simple statement: "I have studied, and do study, every 
method of economy in my power; otherwise a mint of 
money would not support a family." ^^ 

Certainly, without any intention of boasting, she her- 
self, in her later years, sums up her usefulness to hus- 
band and children when she is explaining to her sister 
the multiplicity of care that seems to hang around her 
as thickly in age as it did in youth: "You know, my 
dear sister, if there be bread enough, and to spare, un- 
less a prudent attention manage that sufficiency, the 
fruits of diligence will be scattered by the hand of dis- 
sipation. No man ever prospered in the world without 
the consent and cooperation of his wife." ^^ 

As she had patience to endure want and privation, 
so she had courage to meet danger. When those she 
loves are in peril, her heart feels "like a heart of 
lead."^^ But for herself, sensitive as her nerves may 
be, there is a strain of heroism which swells and hardens 
at the touch of emergency. The anticipation of evils 
makes her doubt a little. "If danger comes near my 
dwelling, I suppose I shall shudder." *° But when her 
husband writes to her, " In case of real danger, of which 
you cannot fail to have previous intimations, fly to the 



ABIGAIL ADAMS 19 

woods with our children," ^^ we know, we see, that she 
would have had perfect presence of mind either to fly; 
or to remain, as the wisest courage might dictate. "I 
am not suddenly elated or depressed, " ^^ she says ; and 
again, " I am not apt to be intimidated." ^^ Though she 
was far from given to self-commendation, she declares 
solemnly that if the men are not able to perform their 
duty to their country, the enemy will find the women 
to be a veritable race of Amazons. Nay, she even goes 
forth as a spectator and enjoys one of the most fierce, 
intense excitements known to man, the vision of a field 
of battle. " I have just returned from Penn's hill, where 
I have been sitting* to hear the amazing roar of cannon, 
and from whence I could see every shell which was 
thrown. The sound, I think, is one of the grandest in 
nature, and is of the true species of the sublime." ^^ 

Do not, however, set this lady down as one who would 
have taken a bloodthirsty delight in bull-fights or the 
prize ring. If she hearkened with a thrill of awed 
pleasure to the booming of cannon, it was because they 
were fired in defense of her country and of liberty. She 
knew well what her friends and fellow citizens were 
fighting for, and if she took a passionate interest in 
the struggle, it was because her whole heart and hopes 
were fixed upon the end of it. Her husband's letters 



20 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 

to her contain much lucid statement and analysis of 
the methods and aims of the Revolution, and hers are 
scarcely behind hiSi in clear understanding and intensity 
of purpose. 

She thought much, and thought with broad intelli- 
gence on general political questions, liked to talk of 
them, liked to write of them. "Well, you tell H. she 
must not write politics; now it is just as natural for 
me to fall upon them as to breathe." ^^ She has no 
illusions about democracy, or about human nature, — 
speaks at times even with cynical insight of its failures 
and defects. The lamentable inconsistencies of states- 
manship are not hidden from her. How many who 
were fighting for American freedom at that day had 
the courage to cry out that it was absurd for men who 
kept slaves to take up arms and fight battles in the name 
of liberty? Mrs. Adams had that courage.*^ 

Yet, in spite of the selfishness of politicians and the 
inadequacy of human ideals, this wise and energetic 
woman never faltered for a moment in her devotion 
to the cause of her country, never wavered in her hope. 
The warmth and the glory of her enthusiasm must have 
been a splendid comfort to her husband and to all who 
knew her. Her passion does, indeed, occasionally de- 
generate into bitterness against her enemies. Alas, we 



ABIGAIL ADAMS 21 

do not need recent examples to show us that this is too 
easy with even the wisest and the noblest. " Those who 
do not scruple to bring poverty, misery, slavery, and 
death upon thousands will not hesitate at the most dia- 
bolical crimes," she writes ; " and this is Britain." *^ But 
she has the same noble scorn for folly and meanness 
on her own side. "If our army is in ever so critical a 
state, I wish to know it. . . . If all America is to be ruined 
and undone by a pack of cowards and knaves, I wish 
to know it. Pitiable is the lot of their commander."^* 
And her words of counsel, of confidence, of inspiration, 
are never wanting. Her young brother-in-law longs to 
enter the army. She pleads and reasons with his 
doubting mother to make her permit it. Her husband 
is involved in an endless tangle of difficulty and danger. 
She would not have him shun an hour of it. "You 
cannot be, I know, nor do I wish to see you, an inactive 
spectator; but if the sword be drawn, I bid adieu to 
all domestic felicity, and look forward to that country 
where there are neither wars nor rumors of war, in 
a firm belief, that through the mercy of its King we 
shall both rejoice there together." ^^ Nor does she urge 
others to sacrifices which she is unwilling to make her- 
self. Foreign luxuries? Let them go. Plain milk 
makes as good a breakfast as sugared coffee. Not 



22 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 

one of the comforts to which she has been accustomed 
but she will cheerfully renounce. If the men are taken 
from the fields, the women will do the work for them. 
She herself doubts her strength for digging potatoes, 
but she can gather corn and husk it. What she can 
do, she will do, that her children and her children's 
children may be free. 

Ill 

Mrs. Adams's interesting combination of a true 
woman's gentleness and sensibility with the masculine 
qualities called for by her time is best studied, as some 
of the preceding quotations indicate, in her relation to 
her husband. To understand this relation fully, it is 
necessary to have some idea of his very marked and 
peculiar character. He was, then, a man of broad in- 
tellectual power, of keen insight into political and moral 
problems, of energetic and self-sacrificing patriotism. 
He commanded the respect of all men by his dignity, 
his courage, his sincerity of speech and action, his en- 
tire honesty. But men did not love him; for he had 
not tact; he had not social charm; he bristled with ego- 
tism, and, like many egotists, he was morbidly sensitive 
and showed it. I do not know any one quotation that 
much better depicts the man than the following: "I 



ABIGAIL ADAMS 23 

have a very tender, feeling heart. This country knows 
not, and never can know, the torments I have endured 
for its sake. I am glad it never can know, for it would 
give more pain to the benevolent and humane than I 
could wish even the wicked and malicious to feel.'"^^ 
Try to imagine Washington saying that. 

Also, John Adams was a man who found fault with 
everything, and therefore naturally he found fault with 
his wife. Even his praise too often savors of patronage 
and his advice is apt to carry a strong taint of criti- 
cism. Occasionally he flings out in undisguised dis- 
pleasure. Though she was the last person to complain 
of her health, he cannot resist a sarcasm about it : " My 
wife has been sick all winter, frequently at the point 
of death, in her own opinion." ^^ Her indiscretion in 
money matters, though at a time when discretion was 
almost impossible, provokes him to sharp reproof. 
" How could you be so imprudent ? You must be frugal, 
I assure you."^^ But the best is the incident of the 
young coach horses, driven imprudently to church and 
causing a most indecorous disturbance there. Mrs. 
Adams was not present herself, but she authorized the 
proceeding, and the husband notes, in hot wrath, "I 
scolded at the coachman first, and afterwards at his 
mistress, and I will scold again and again; it is my 



24 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 

duty."^^ Perhaps a husband to whom scolding is a 
duty is even worse than one to whom it is a pleasure. 

Nevertheless, this husband, who could scold and be 
imperious and even tyrannical, like others, adored and 
reverenced and obeyed his wife, like others. How pretty 
are his compliments to her wit and intelligence, though 
he veils them under sarcasm. Of a certain acquaint- 
ance he says: "In large and mixed companies she is 
totally silent, as a lady ought to be. But whether her 
eyes are so penetrating, and her attention so quick to 
the words, looks, gestures, sentiments, etc., of the com- 
pany, as yours would be, saucy as you are this way, 
I won't say."^* And there is no trace of sarcasm in 
the ample admission to his son that in all the vicissi- 
tudes of fortune his wife had been his help and com- 
fort, while without her he could not have endured and 
survived. In a letter written to his granddaughter the 
same enthusiasm appears, even more nobly. He com- 
pares his wife to the heroic Lady Russell, who stood 
by her husband's side in times equally troublous. "This 
lady," he says, "was more beautiful than Lady Rus- 
sell, had a brighter genius, more information, a more 
refined taste, and [was] at least her equal in the virtues 
of the heart." ^^ 

An extensive correspondence, covering many years. 



ABIGAIL ADAMS 25 

reveals to us fully Mrs. Adams's relations with this 
companion of her long life, reveals her love and anxiety 
and devotion and enthusiasm for the man to whom 
she early gave her whole heart and from whom she 
never withdrew it for a moment. As he rises in the 
world, becomes a guide and a leader, a prominent citi- 
zen, a great historical figure, she accompanies him in 
spirit always, with watchful care, with fruitful caution, 
with delicate suggestion. She sighs over the necessi- 
ties of state which part her from him. She slights, as 
we all do, great gifts of fortune that we have, and 
deplores those that are denied her. She hoped to have 
married a man, not a title, she says. A humble, pri- 
vate station with a husband would have been sweeter 
than grandeur without one. Yet we know well enough 
that she would not have had him lose an inch of for- 
tune for her comfort, and never woman developed more 
fully the grace and ease and dignity which great station 
requires than did she. The letter she wrote him on 
the day of his inauguration as president has been often 
cited and deserves citation. It is a noble letter. " My 
feelings are not those of pride or ostentation, upon the 
occasion. They are solemnized by a sense of the obli- 
gations, the important trusts, and numerous duties con- 
nected with it. That you may be enabled to discharge 



26 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 

them with honor to yourself, with justice and impar- 
tiaHty to your country, and with satisfaction to this 
great people, shall be the daily prayer of your A. A." *^ 
And as she was perfectly adapted to share her hus- 
band's greatness, so she accepted with equal composure 
and dignity his comparative failure and downfall. She 
did not seek honors and glories, she says, and she is 
quite content to part from them. A peaceful life at 
Quincy, with the man she loves, is all she ever asked 
for, and nothing can be more delightful than to have 
it given back to her. We know how much of sincerity 
there is in such declarations and how much of credit- 
able and fine mendacity. In Mrs. Adams they were 
probably as sincere as they ever are. She was a sincere 
woman. But though she was perfectly ready to accept 
her husband's defeat, she could not quite forgive those 
who, in her opinion, had conspired against him and be- 
trayed him. Toward such political enemies her lan- 
guage is not wholly free from a certain ungracious, 
if pardonable, acerbity. Thus, she says of one who 
should have been beneath her contempt, "I hear that 
Duane has got hold of my letter to Niles, and spits 
forth vulgar abuse at me . . . but the low sarcasms 
of these people affect me no more at this day than the 
idle wind."" 



ABIGAIL ADAMS 27 

Even in regard to Jefferson her animosity was long 
a-dying. In early days she had known him well and 
admired and loved him. Then the fierce political con- 
test which made him her husband's successor parted 
them. Between the two men the feud was soon for- 
gotten, and the long correspondence of their old age, 
crowned by their deaths on the same anniversary of 
American independence, is one of the striking traditions 
of our history. But Mrs. Adams forgave more slowly 
than her husband. When Jefferson, who had always 
admired her and who spoke of her as " one of the most 
estimable characters on earth," ^^ finally made a direct 
appeal to their former affection, she answered him with 
courtesy, but with a clear, vigorous, burning logic that 
showed how deep and unhealed the old wound was: 
Jefferson's conduct, she says, she "considered as a 
personal injury." Then she ends, as a Christian should : 
" I bear no malice. I cherish no enmity. I would not 
retaliate if it was in my power." ^^ But nobody is left 
in a moment's doubt as to what she felt. 

Through all these accidents and floods of fortune it 
is easy to observe how great at once and how unob- 
trusive was Mrs. Adams's influence over her husband. 
She never dreamed of any vulgar domination, or de- 
sired it. She knew well the limits of her activity and 



28 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 

his and respected them. Her advice, when given at 
all, was given discreetly, tentatively, and, without being 
in any way enforced, was left with time to prove its 
value. Time did prove its value, and in consequence 
the recipient of it came to look for more and to depend 
upon it more than he knew, perhaps more than even 
she herself knew. 

Yet in all that concerned their personal relations, as 
indeed in all that concerned human nature, her knowl- 
edge was far finer and more delicate than his. It was 
just this exquisite comprehension of his character and 
temperament that made her counsel of such constant 
utility. To be sure, her means of information were 
greater, as well as her faculty of insight. He had little 
reserve, with her at any rate, spoke out his needs and 
hopes and discouragements, made plain his strength and 
weakness, unrolled his heart like a scroll before her 
searching and tender scrutiny. This she could not do. 
She felt more than he those mighty, subtle barriers 
which seal the tongue and make it incapable of utter- 
ing what it yearns to utter. In one of her letters occurs 
this simple statement which says so much : " My pen is 
always freer than my tongue. I have written many 
things to you that I suppose I never could have 
talked." ^^ Yet even her pen is tongue-tied in compari- 



ABIGAIL ADAMS 29 

son with his. Therefore it is evident that much of her 
is beyond his divination, while she sees clear into every 
corner of his heart, understands what affection there 
is, what power there is, what w^eakness there is, under- 
stands just exactly the weight and significance there 
is in those scoldings delivered again and again from a 
sense of duty. Must we add that she saw all this partly 
from finer vision and partly from greater eagerness, 
while he saw not only all he was fitted, but also all that 
he desired, to see? ^ 

For she was a woman, and her love was her whole 
soul; and it is a delight, after all these strayings in 
masculine by-paths, to return to the woman in her. She 
writes long letters on great matters, domestic difficul- 
ties, foreign levies, questions of policy, questions of 
state; but always in some brief sentence there is the 
heart of the letter and the heart of the woman. It is an- 
noying sometimes to stiff, starched John. " I shall have 
vexations enough, as usual," he writes. " You will have 
anxiety and tenderness enough, as usual. Pray strive 
not to have too much." ®^ When there is prospect of their 
letters being captured by the British and printed, his 
comment is, that they would both be made to appear 
very ridiculous.®^ 

Ridiculous ! What does she care for being ridiculous ? 



30 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 

This is the man she worships and she wants him. At 
the very suggestion of his being ill, ten thousand hor- 
rors seize upon her imagination, and she says so. All 
he writes of state matters is very well. She is glad 
to hear it, hungers for it. But she hungers far more 
for those little tokens of tenderness which he has no 
time for giving. "Could you, after a thousand fears 
and anxieties, long expectation and painful suspense, be 
satisfied with my telling you that I was well, that I 
wished you were with me, that my daughter sent her 
duty, that I had ordered some articles for you, which 
I hoped would arrive, etc., etc.? By Heaven, if you 
could, you have changed hearts with some frozen Lap- 
lander, or made a voyage to a region that has chilled 
every drop of your blood." ^^ Love her, oh, yes, she 
knows he loves her, after his fashion, but why doesn't 
he say so, after her fashion? "Every expression of 
tenderness is a cordial to my heart." ^* " I want some 
sentimental effusions of the heart." ®^ The language 
is the language of Addison, but the want is the want 
of Eve forever. It murmurs through these letters of 
war and business like a touch of birdsong on a field of 
battle. 

Then, when we Have got it thoroughly into our heads 
that this was a woman and a lover, we can end with 



ABIGAIL ADAMS 31 

her own splendid answer — appropriate at this day as 
it was at that — when she was asked how she bore 
having Mr. Adams absent for three years in his coun- 
try's service. "If I had known, sir, that Mr. Adams 
could have effected what he has done, I would not only 
have submitted to the absence I have endured, painful 
as it has been, but I would not have opposed it, even 
though three years more should be added to the num- 
ber (which Heaven avert!). I feel a pleasure in being 
able to sacrifice myi selfish passions to the general good, 
and in imitating the example which has taught me to 
consider myself and family but as the small dust of the 
balance, when compared with the great community."^® 



II 

SARAH ALDEN RIPLEY 



CHRONOLOGY 

Sarah Alden Bradford 

Bom in Boston, July 31, 1793. 

Married Rev. Samuel Ripley, 1818. 

Lived in Waltham, Massachusetts, 1818-1846. 

Lived in Concord, Massachusetts, from 1846 

until her death. 
Husband died, November 24, 1847. 
Died in Concord, July 26, 1867. 




SARAH ALDEN RIPLEY 



II 

SARAH ALDEN RIPLEY 

I 

Few American women of to-day know of Mrs. Samuel 
Ripley, but a sentence from Senator Hoar's "Autobi- 
ography " will give her a favorable introduction : " She 
was one of the most wonderful scholars of her time, or 
indeed of any time. President Everett said she could 
fill any professor's chair at Harvard." To this we 
may add the testimony of Professor Child, whose au- 
thority no one will question : " The most learned woman 
I have ever known, the most diversely learned perhaps 
of her time, and not inferior in this respect, I venture 
to say, to any woman of any age." 

It seems worth while to hear a little more about her, 
does it not? 

From her childhood she had a passion for books and 
study. Every available minute was snatched for them, 
and some that were not available. " I never go to Boston 
or anywhere else, my passion for reading increasing 
inversely with time," she writes when little more than a 
child. In the early years of the nineteenth century. 



36 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 

when she was growing up, New England was not very- 
favorable to the education of girls — nor was any other 
place. But she was fortunate in having a father — 
Captain Bradford, of Duxbury — who was a scholar 
as well as a sea captain, and who loved her and liked 
to indulge her fancies. 

" Father, may I study Latin ? " she asked him. 

"Latin! A girl study Latin! Certainly. Study 
anything you like." 

Whereupon she compares him, greatly to his advan- 
tage, with another father who endeavored to convince 
his daughter that "all knowledge, except that of do- 
mestic affairs, appears unbecoming in a female." 

Becoming or not, all knowledge was acceptable to her. 
She studied Latin until she could read it like a modern 
tongue, Greek the same, also French, German, and Ital- 
ian. She did this largely alone, German without any 
assistance whatever, persisting incredibly, " working still 
at an abominable language without being sensible of the 
least progress," she complains. Nor did she confine 
herself to languages. Her zeal for mathematics and 
philosophy was fully equal. Most of all, perhaps, she 
loved the sciences; and chemistry, astronomy, and 
especially botany, were a delight to her from youth 



to age. 



SARAH ALDEN RIPLEY 37 

Nor did she take her study of languages as a task 
simply, as an end in itself, as so many do. It was but a 
means, a greater facility for getting at the thoughts of 
wise men and past ages. She read Latin and Greek 
widely as well as thoroughly. Tacitus and Juvenal must 
have furnished odd reflection for a schoolgirl, and it is 
not every infant of fourteen who regales her imagina- 
tion with the novels of Voltaire. 

Naturally such solitary reading in a child of that age 
had something academic about it, and the intellectual 
enthusiasm of her early letters abounds in pleasing sug- 
gestions of copy-book moralities. Yet the keen, vigorous 
insight often breaks through, even here. Conventional 
habit might lead an ordinary student to moralize on 
death ; but few ordinary students would generalize their 
botanical observations into the remark that soon "our 
bodies, transformed into their airy elements, maybe con- 
verted into the jointed stalk of the rank grass whicH 
will wave over our graves." Pretty well for a girl of 
sixteen ! 

And though she studied rules and learned traditions, 
and so early laid over her spirit a mighty mass of au- 
thority, she did not propose to be in any way a slave to 
it. When rules vex her, she cries out against them. For 
instance, she could never spell, and why should she ? "I 



38 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 

wish the free spirit were not trammeled by these con- 
founded rules." Also, while she studies for study's 
sake, and could hardly be expected, in the early days, to 
interest herself too much in the why of it, you get sin- 
gular hints of penetration where you least look for 
them. She asks herself whether her devotion to the 
Classics springs " from pride of learning in your humble 
servant or intrinsic merit in Cicero, Virgil, and Tacitus." 
The question is one that many an older scholar might 
put with advantage. 

It is, above all, in the line of religious speculation that 
one examines most curiously Sarah's gradual change 
from a conventional acceptance of what is taught her 
to fierce, independent thinking for herself. She was 
brought up on by no means narrow lines of orthodoxy. 
But in her early letters there is a serious and earnest 
acceptance of the fundamental doctrines of Christianity 
and a loyal effort to apply them. Gradually this unques- 
tioning submission yields to the steady encroachment of 
the spirit of inquiry, the "dread of enthusiasm, of the 
mind's becoming enslaved to a system perhaps errone- 
ous, and shut forever against the light of truth." With 
the process of years the emancipation grows more 
marked, until little of the old faith is left but the 
unfailing habit of its goodness. 



SARAH ALDEN RIPLEY 39 

Do not, however, for a moment suppose that this 
stuciious and thoughtful childhood was altogether lost 
in bookishness, that Sarah was, in youth or in age, a 
stuffy pedant. She was never that in the least, at any 
time of her life ; never gave that impression to any one. 
She was at all points an energetic, practical, efficient, 
common-sense human being. She did not indeed have 
the eager life of sport and diversion that the girl of 
to-day has. No girl had it then. There was no tennis 
or basket-ball, not even skating, or swimming, or riding. 
These things would not have been ladylike if they had 
been possible. Instead of them, there were only long 
walks in the Duxbury woods, the rich, wholesome flavor 
o'f the New England autumn : " The great pear tree at 
the gate, full of orange pears ; the ground strewed with 
golden high-tops ; the girl in the corn-barn paring apples 
to dry; the woods filled with huckleberries." 

Also, there were the pressing cares of daily life, where 
mouths were many and means were little. Sarah had 
her full share of these and met them with swift and 
adequate efficiency. It is true, she groans sometimes 
over "that dreadful ironing day," and rebels a little 
when "Betsey, teasing to know how the meat Is to be 
dissected," interferes with letters filled with Greek poets 
and Roman historians. But she comes right down to 



40 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 

earth an3 stays there, heats the irons, dissects the meat, 
sweeps the parlor, at proper times takes an apparently- 
absorbed interest in shopping and ribbons and furbe- 
lows, as a normal girl should. 

Even her abstruser preoccupations are put to prac- 
tical use. The oldest of a large family, she imparts her 
own acquirements to those who come after her, not mak- 
ing any one the scholar she herself was, but giving them 
all an education exceptional in that day or any day. 
Also, she gave them more than book-education ; for the 
early death of her mother left her at the head of the 
household, and she attended to every Huty as if her 
beloved books did not exist at all. Nor was she moved 
by the sense of duty only, but by tenderness and affec- 
tion, as appears charmingly in the words written by 
her father to her mother from oversea: "Tell Sarah 
(oh, she is a seraph!) that I thank her with my tears 
which flow fast as I now write and think of her good 
behavior, her virtues, her filial piety." 

To which let me add these few words from the same 
source, which show that she was a live, flesh-and-blood 
girl and not a mere copy-book model : " You I hope are 
skipping, jumping, dancing, and running up and down 
in Boston. This I know you are doing if you are well, 
for you are always on the wing." 



SARAH ALDEN RIPLEY 41 

Souls that skip and dance and are always on the 
wing usually have the elements of sociability in them. 
In her youth, as later, Sarah was popular and beloved 
by those who knew her. She had a singular charm of 
simplicity and grace, and if she was aroused and inter- 
ested, she had that social attraction which comes when 
quick words spring from vivid and eager thoughts. At 
the same time, she never sought the world and often 
shunned it. Her first preoccupation was with books, 
and she turned to them when possible. Trivial social 
occasions were to be avoided on principle: "I do not 
intend to give up all society; I intend only to relinquish 
that from which I can gain no good." Moreover, she 
was naturally shy and self-conscious, doubted her own 
powers of conversation and entertainment, her own in- 
stinct of behavior in company. A 3Vead of impropriety, 
she says, is the plague of her life. And again, " I should 
have exerted myself more, but I believe I shall never 
learn to talk." 

She was a close analyst of Her sensations and experi- 
ences with others as well as alone, and this is not a 
temper favorable to complete social enjoyment. The 
hearts of those about her she read with equal keenness 
— a habit also not always socially fortunate. She would 
not for the world have hurt the feelings of a single 



42 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 

human being; and when she reproaches herself with 
talking scandal, we know that it is such scandal as one 
might expect from a saint. But even at an early age she 
saw men and women as they are, and this, alas, in our 
mingled life, is too often to appear ill-nature3. There- 
fore she turned from men and women to books and 
thoughts. Which does not mean that she had not kindly 
affections, deep and tender and lasting. Here also 
the sharp probe of her analysis intrudes itself. To her 
dearest friend she says, "I love you as much as I am 
capable of loving any one " ; and late in life she observes, 
" I have learned by experience that friendship is a plant 
that must be watered and nursed or it withers." 

But these self-doubting loves often are the tenderest 
and truest, and Sarah's 3evotion to those for whom 
she really cared was as sincere as it was lasting. With a 
humility as touching as her independence, she writes to 
one of them, " You are the only person who ever thought 
me of any consequence and I am pretty well convinced 
that other folks are more than half right. I want you 
to love me, but do as you please about it." 

These words were written to that singular person- 
age, Mary Moody Emerson, aunt of Ralph Waldo and 
half-sister of Samuel Ripley, whom Sarah afterwards 
married. The friendship between these ladies was 



SARAH ALDEN RIPLEY 45 

close and warm, and Mrs. Ripley always spoke of Miss 
Emerson with the greatest esteem. But one even 
nearer to her was Miss Allyn, later Mrs. Francis, and 
the long series of letters that passed between them is 
delightful in its simplicity, its cordiality, its curious 
revelation of two pure and sympathetic spirits. What 
an odd mixture it presents of common daily interests, 
religious aspiration, and intellectual enthusiasm! New 
bonnets, old prayers, botany, chemistry, Homer and 
Tacitus jostle each other on the same page with quite 
transparent genuineness and charm. 

The one topic supposed to be most common in young 
ladies' letters, that is, young men and their doings and 
their attentions, is quite absent here. The truth is, 
Sarah was not concerned with such things. There is 
no evidence that in her childhood and youth her heart 
was ever touched. When she was twenty-five years 
old, she married Mr. Ripley. She did not pretend that 
it was a marriage of love on her side. She had the 
greatest respect for her husband, who was a clergyman 
of high and noble character in every way. Her father 
was anxious for the match, and she yielded to persua- 
sion. But at the time a life of solitary study seemed to 
her preferable, as she frankly admits. The word's with 
which she announced her engagement, in writing to 



44 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 

Miss Emerson, are curiously characteristic: "Your 
family have probably no idea what trouble they may 
be entailing on themselves ; I make no promises of good 
behavior, but knowing my tastes and habits they must 
take the consequences upon themselves." After which, 
it need merely be added that there never was a more 
devoted and affectionate wife. 



II 

I AM going to pa^s at once from Mrs. Ripley in youth 
to Mrs. Ripley in age, because in fairness I should end 
with the ripe perfection of her middle years. It so hap- 
pens that we have abundant correspondence of the 
earlier and later periods, but little between, when she 
was too occupied and too active to write. In age as in 
youth her spirit was pure, lofty, and serene; but with 
her temperament it was natural that the sadness of age 
should be peculiarly apparent. The contrast cannot be 
better illustrated than by two very beautiful passages, 
written fifty years apart. 

In the buoyancy of early days she writes: "A light 
breakfast and a ride into town in the cool morning 
air, stretched my existence through eternity. I lived 
ages in an hour." The tottering limbs and broken 



SARAH ALDEN RIPLEY 45 

thoughts of after years recall a dim echo of these rap- 
tures, how far, how very far away : " I took a walk in 
the pine grove near the cemetery, yesterday morning, 
and crept Sown the hill into a deep ravine we used to 
call the bowl, covered with decayed leaves, where we 
used to play tea with acorns for fairy cups; the acorns 
and the cups remain, but the charm is gone never to 
return." 

It is in this older period of her life that the impression 
of Mrs. Ripley's personal appearance survives with most 
of those who have told us anything about her career. It 
is not said that even in youth she was especially beau- 
tiful; but in youth as in age there must have been the 
suggestion of earnest purity and dignity, so marked in 
all the likenesses of her that remain. Her features are 
calm, thoughtful, noble, sympathetic, but with a hint 
of the sadness of one who has meditated long on life 
with vast comprehension and limited hope. 

This impression of sadness is undeniably prominent 
in the numerous letters of her later years. "Sorrow, 
not hope," she says, "is the color of old age." Her 
sorrow never has the shade of petulance or pitiful 
complaint. It is even penetrated with a sweet kindli- 
ness that often amounts to sunshine. But the sorrow is 
there, deeply motived and all-pervading. 



46 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 

To her clear vision it seems that all things are falling 
away from her. Society? The contact with her fellows 
had never been the chief thing in her life. Now the few 
she loved are gone or going, and the many who used to 
excite a vague curiosity have such different ways and 
thoughts that she can hardly understand them any more. 
Her last years were passed in the Manse, at Concord, 
the dwelling of her husband's forefathers. The Manse 
was then, as it has always been, widely hospitable, and 
the hurry of eager feet often passed her threshold and 
the door of her quidt chamber. She listened to it with 
sympathetic tenderness, but her interest faded with the 
fading years. 

Religion? Religion had melted for her into a great 
love. But of active beliefs she cherished few or none. 
The days of strenuous thought and fierce probing of 
impenetrable secrets were over. She would gladly put 
aside the little child's questions if she could have the 
little child's peace. "How well it is that the world is 
so large, that lichens grow on every tree, that there are 
toadstools as well as sermons for those that like them." 

Newspapers ? She had rarely read them in her most 
active days. She could find little interest in them now. 
Even the turbulence of the Civil War touched her but 
slightly. She had drunk deep of the horrors of the past 



SARAH ALDEN RIPLEY 47 

and hate3 them. Why should she revive their torment 
in the present ? The war, she vi^rites, " sits on me as a 
nightmare." But, Hke a nightmare, she shakes it off 
when she can. 

Study? Ah, that alone is still real, as always. And 
she would have echoed the phrase that Sainte-Beuve 
loved. On se lasse de tout excepte de comprendre. 
" Thank Heaven," she says, " I led a lonely life of study 
in my youth and return to its rest with satisfaction." 
The books on her shelves are friends and companions 
who will not desert her. "When I am alive I hold 
audience with Plato, and when I am not, I gaze on his 
outside with delight." She learns Spanish by herself 
at seventy and reads Don Quixote with relish, com- 
plaining only that the pronunciation is impossible for 
her. Yet, after all, even books are but pale comforters, 
when life is behind instead of before. And in a dull, 
dark moment she confesses that she reads mainly to kill 
time. 

As the years grow shorter and the hours longer, the 
one thing that she falls back upon more and more is 
the affections of home. Her memory fails her, her 
great mental powers no longer sustain her. But, in 
noting this, she observes with touching pathos, "I may 
be childish, but there are no limits to love." In her 



48 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 

active years she had never depended upon those around 
her for comfort or for diversion. To her sister-in-law, 
who remarked that she was contented only when she 
had all her children in the room with her, Mrs. Ripley 
said that she did not require her children's presence so 
long as she knew that they were happy. But as time 
flowed on, her heart turned more to the contact of those 
she loved. It pleased her to be busy for them, when she 
could, though she deplored the weakness and ineptitude 
of age in this regard. " It seems strange that I that have 
so litle to do, should do that little wrong." It pleased her 
to have them about her. She writes to the daughter she 
loved best, with winning tenderness : " I feel a want un- 
satisfied, and I think it must be to see you. Now this 
is somewhat of a concession for one who has always 
professed entire independence. But there is often, 
nowadays, a solitude of the heart which nothing can fill 
except your image." 

She loved to hear the prattle of her grandchildren, to 
watch their pretty, w^ild activities, as if they were crea- 
tures of her dreams. So they were, and she regarded 
them, as she regarded the whole world and her own 
soul, with a sad and gentle curiosity. In such a tender 
atmosphere of thought, of love, and of memory, she 
faded away, in the spirit of the beautiful words which 



SARAH ALDEN RIPLEY 49 

she herself wrote not many weeks before the end : " We 
have kept step together through a long piece of road in 
the weary journey of Hfe: we have loved the same 
beings and wept together over their graves. I have not 
your faith to console me, as they drop one after another 
from my side; yet my will, I trust, is in harmony with 
the divine order, and resigned where light is wanting. 
The sun looks brighter and my home more tranquil as 
the evening of life draws near." 



Ill 

Now, to consider Mrs. Ripley as she was in her best 
years, from thirty to sixty, with all her wealth of 
spiritual power and practical usefulness. We find, of 
course, the same qualities that we studied in her youth, 
but amplified, enriched, and balanced by the full develop- 
ment of maturity and a broader contact with the world. 
And first, the wife and mother and housekeeper. It 
must be admitted that Mrs. Ripley's natural tastes did 
not lie in this direction. All the more notable is it that 
she was as admirable and successful here as in more 
abstract and ambitious pursuits. She herself recognizes 
amply that in giving up her cherished Interests for a life 
of active usefulness she had found gain as well as loss. 



50 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 

" I once thought a solitary Hf e the true one, and, contrary 
to my theory, was moved to give up the independence 
of an attic covered with books for the responsibiUties 
and perplexities of a parish and a family. Yet I have 
never regretted the change. Though I have suffered 
much, yet I have enjoyed much and learned more," And 
housekeeping for her meant, not a ladylike supervision, 
but hard, perpetual labor. She rarely had a servant, 
she had many children, she had large social obligations, 
and for years she had the needs of a boys' school to 
provide for. Whatever her life lacked, it was not ac- 
tivity. The fret, the wear, the burden of all these cares 
she undoubtedly felt, especially as her health was never 
of the best. Sometimes she longed unutterably to be 
free and quiet. But she never complained, she never 
grew sour or querulous. Says one who knew her and 
loved her: "In all the annoyances of an overtaxed life 
I never saw her temper touched. She did not know 
resentment; she seemed always living in a sphere far 
above us all, yet in perfect sympathy." 

As a wife and mother she did her full duty as if it 
were a pleasure. The affection, almost devotion, with 
which her husband speaks of her is sufficient evidence 
as to her relation to him. I have already said that she 
did not depend upon her children for amusement; but 



SARAH ALDEN RIPLEY 51 

she watched over them and entered into their lives as 
only her intelligence could. Her methods of training 
and education v^ere those of sympathy and kindness, and 
better testimony to their success could not be afforded 
than the noble qualities and eminent usefulness of her 
sons and daughters. 

No account of these middle years of Mrs. Ripley's 
life would be complete without an analysis of her con- 
tact with the world, with her fellow men and women. 
In one way her career was an isolated, or at least a lim- 
ited, one. She never traveled, knew nothing even of her 
own country outside the circle of her immediate sur- 
roundings. Books and talk, however, gave her a far 
wider knowledge of mankind than this would promise. 
And, though she did not go to the world, the world came 
to her. Her father's houses in Boston and Duxbury were 
always open to friends and neighbors, and during her 
husband's long ministration in his Waltham parish, she 
kept up a hospitality which never failed or weakened. 
All sorts of people were welcomed In her parlor, and if 
her thoughts were often called away to other higher or 
lower cares, she did not show it and her visitors never 
knew it. 

This is not saying that her duties were not some- 
times irksome. Occasionally, in her most intimate cor- 



52 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 

respondence, she rebelled and uttered what she felt. " I 
would there were any hole to creep out of this most 
servile of all situations, a country clergyman's wife. 
Oh, the insupportable fatigue of affected sympathy with 
ordinary and vulgar minds." Yet an impatience like 
this was but momentary, and! was in no way incompati- 
ble with the social charm which I have already indicated 
in Mrs. Ripley's youth, and which continued and in- 
creased with age. She certainly did not seek society, in 
fact preferred the multitudinous solitude of her own 
thoughts; but neither did she avoid her fellows, and 
when with them she had always the supreme attraction 
of being wholly and perfectly herself. There was no 
affectation, no convention in her manners or in her talk. 
She said what she thought, and, as her thoughts were 
wide, abundant, and original, her conversation could 
not fail to be stimulating. She was, indeed, more inter- 
ested in the thoughts of others than in her own, and 
never permitted herself to be burdened with the demands 
of making talk where there was none. 

The shyness of early years persisted in the form of 
quiet self-effacement. In the words of one who knew 
her well, " Without being precisely shy, she often gave 
one the impression of an unobtrusive, yet extreme solici- 
tude to be in nobody's way." And this is not the worst 



SARAH ALDEN RIPLEY 53 

of social qualities. It must not, however, in Mrs. Rip- 
ley's case, suggest dullness. When she did speak, it 
was with the ease and the fertility of a full soul. To 
Dr. Hedge it seemed that she had "an attraction pro- 
ceeding from no personal charms, but due to the aston- 
ishing vivacity, the all-aliveness, of her presence, which 
made it impossible to imagine her otherwise than wide- 
awake and active in word or work." 

Yet even so, I have not quite portrayed the singular 
candor and impersonality of Mrs. Ripley's spirit. Her 
lower self did not exist for her; that is, she left it to 
regulate its doings by an exquisite instinct, without 
cumbering her soul with it. When her friends, in jest, 
engaged her in speculative talk and then put a broom in 
her hands and asked her to carry it across Boston Com- 
mon, she did it quite without thought. In the same way, 
she carried her own external, social person through life, 
bearing it with the flawless and unfailing dignity that 
belonged to high preoccupations, and so making contact 
with her one of the privileges and delights of all she 
met. 

Among the activities of Mrs. Ripley's prime none is 
more illustrative of her character than her teaching. 
She taught boys for many years, sometimes as an assist- 
ant in her husband's boarding-school, or again simply 



54 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 

taking pupils to tutor in her own house. I find very 
little evidence that she enjoyed the work. Of course, 
there was the rare pleasure of really waking up a soul, 
knowing and seeing that you have done so. But the 
teacher was too self-distrustful to take much credit, 
even in such cases. She hated all responsibility — 
how much, then, the responsibility of a young life. 
She hated drudgery, of body or soul, though her whole 
long existence was made up of it. And whatever 
pleasure there may be in teaching, few will deny that 
there is drudgery also. Especially she hated (discipline, 
believed at least that she had no faculty for it, and 
refused to practice it in any harsher sense. It is said 
that, as she sat in her teacher's chair, she knitted assid- 
uously and purposely, so that small infractions of pro- 
priety might escape her notice. It is said, also, that 
when such things were forced upon her, she made no 
comment at the time, but afterwards wrote gentle, plead- 
ing notes to the culprits, which never failed of their 
effect. 

For, whatever she may have felt herself, her pupils 
thought her eminently successful as a teacher. They 
learned from her, they obeyed her, they admired her, 
they loved her. No one affords better evidence than she 
that the stimulus of the soul goes further than the stim- 



SARAH ALDEN RIPLEY 55 

ulus of the rod. Most of her boys were rich, idle fellows, 
who had been suspended from college or had never been 
able to get there. Such hearts are not always bad, but 
you have got to touch them to help them. On this point I 
do not know that I can quote better testimony than that 
of Senator Hoar. He says of the pupils who came to 
her from college: "She would keep them along in all 
their studies, in most cases better instructed than the}r 
would have been if they had stayed in Cambridge. I 
remember her now with the strongest feelings of rever- 
ence, affection, and gratitude. In that I say only what 
every other pupil of hers would say. I do not think she 
ever knew how much her boys loved her." 

I cannot leave Mrs. Ripley's teaching and practical 
usefulness better than with the pathos of that last 
sentence. 

IV 

There is no 3oubt that the chief interest of Mrs. 
Ripley's best years, as of her youth, is in her intellectual 
preoccupations. It is true that she theoretically sub- 
ordinates such preoccupations to useful action, but her 
very words in doing this show her attitude. "I sym- 
pathize much with your tranquil enjoyment in study. 
There is no enjoyment like it, except perhaps disinter- 



56 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 

ested action ; but all action is disturbing, because one is 
constantly limited and annoyed by others." So, in spite 
of the immense activity that was forced upon her by 
her choice of life and her surroundings, she persisted 
day after day and year after year in grasping more 
firmly and more zealously the things of the spirit. 

Sometimes, indeed, the difficulties were so great that 
even her courage faltered. " I begin to think we must 
either live for earth or heaven, that there is no such 
thing as living for both at the same time." 

Her health was uncertain; her time was broken, till 
there seemed nothing left of it; those about her would 
call her attention to petty details and trifling matters, 
world removed from the high thoughts she loved to 
linger with. It made no difference. The persistence — 
call it obstinacy — which others expended upon social 
success, upon worldly profit, upon mere immediate 
pleasure, she devoted wholly to books, to study, to vaster 
acquisition of varied knowledge ; and somehow or other 
she knit up the flying minutes, which many would have 
wasted, into connected hours of profitable toil. 

Note that this spiritual effort was given to intel- 
lectual interests pure and simple. Mrs. Ripley had never 
any great love for the aesthetic side of life. Music, unless 
as a matter of analytical study, made little appeal to her. 



SARAH ALDEN RIPLEY 57 

Art made almost none. " I am not sufficiently initiated 
into the mysteries of art to admire the right things," 
she says. Even in poetry her tastes were narrowly 
limited. The Classics she read because they were the 
Classics. To the moderns she gave little attention and 
less care. So with contemporary events. They passed 
her by almost unnoticed. Her whole thought was given 
to the eternal. 

Note also that she did not study, to make a parade of 
it. She was as far as possible from a pedant in her 
speech as in her thought. She had no desire whatever 
to give instruction, simply to get it. Nor did literary 
ambition enter at all into her enthusiasm. She never 
wrote, had probably no great gift for formal writing. 
Her one inspiring passion, from youth to age, was to 
use every power she had in making just a little more 
progress into the vast, shadowy regions of obtainable 
knowledge. 

As I have already pointed out in connection with her 
young days, her intellectual appetite was universal in 
its scope. It almost seemed as if she did not care upon 
what she used her mind, so long as she used it. The 
truth was, that every study was so delightful that choice 
was hardly necessary. Language? All languages fas- 
cinated her, and she grasped eagerly at every one that 



58 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 

came within her reach. The ethereal flights of pure 
mathematics and astronomy might have absorbed her 
altogether, had it not been that chemistry and botany 
offered attractions so perpetually and variously allur- 
ing. The close contemporary of Thoreau, she had none 
of his imaginative interpretation of the natural world; 
but it is doubtful whether his actual knowledge of plants 
and trees was more exact than hers. 

On the whole, it must be said, however, that her chief 
interest was in philosophy and abstract thought. The 
intense preoccupation with heaven and hell which beset 
every New England childhood in those days, turned, 
with her, as with so many others, into a close and keen 
analysis of where heaven and hell came from — and 
where they had gone to. She read the Greek and the 
English and the German philosophers and meditated 
upon them, with the result of a complete, profound, and 
all-involving intellectual scepticism. Observe that this 
scepticism was individual, not general. She was no dog- 
matic agnostic, no blatant unbeliever; above all, she 
abhorred the thought of leading any other astray. She 
was simply a humble, gentle, reverent seeker, ever anx- 
ious to know whether any one had found the light, but 
irrevocably determined to accept no false gleam, no 
deluding will-o'-the-wisp. 



SARAH ALDEN RIPLEY 59 

Even in face of the greatest mystery of all she would 
express only a deep resignation, making no pretense to 
a confidence she could not feel. " Death is an event as 
natural as birth, and faith makes it as full of promise. 
But faith is denied to certain minds, and submission 
must take its place. The Unknown, which lighted the 
morning of life, will hallow and make serene its evening. 
Conscious or unconscious, we shall rest in the lap of the 
Infinite. Enough of this. Let us live while we live, and 
snatch each fleeting moment of truth and love and 
beauty." 

It may easily be maintained that Mrs. Ripley carried 
intellectual sincerity too far. She was so conscientious 
that she made a dogma, and finally even a duty, of doubt. 
She too often overlooked the blessed privilege of thor- 
ough scepticism, which is that it leaves hope as permissi- 
ble as despair. Yet such singular, lucid, unfailing de- 
votion to pure truth is highly notable in any one. I do 
not know whether a man may be forgiven for assuming 
that it is especially notable in a woman. 

It is in this connection that I find a peculiar interest 
in Mrs. Ripley's intimacy with her nephew by marriage, 
— Emerson. It would seem as if the two must have been 
an infinite source of stimulus and solace to each other. 
That there was always the deepest afifection and respect 



6o PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 

between them is perfectly evident. When Mrs. Ripley 
refers to Waldo in her earlier letters, it is as to a spirit 
inspired and almost super-earthly. And in her old age 
she writes of his absence, " I miss my guide and support 
in many ways." Emerson's tone is no less enthusiastic, 
not only in the eulogy of his friend, published soon after 
her death, but in many passages of his " Journal." 

Yet, with all this, one is rather surprised to note that 
the two seem to see little of each other, do not seek in 
each other's society that constant sympathy that one 
would think they would have found there. The truth 
is, their ways of looking at life were radically different. 
Mrs. Ripley records a conversation between them in 
which she remarked that "the soul's serenity was at 
best nothing more than resignation to what could not be 
helped"; and Emerson rejoined: "Oh, no, not resigna- 
tion, aspiration is the soul's true state! What have we 
knees for, what have we hands for? Peace is victory." 

This difference of attitude peeps out slyly in a touch 
here and there in Mrs. Ripley's letters. It is glaringly 
marked in the study of her, printed at large in the sixth 
volume of Emerson's "Journal." He does, indeed, re- 
peat, with entire sincerity, much of his former praise. 
But he adds these somewhat harsh comments: "She 
would pardon any vice in another which did not obscure 



SARAH ALDEN RIPLEY 6i 

his intellect or deform him as a companion. She knows 
perfectly well what is right and wrong, but it is not from 
conscience that she acts, but from sense of propriety, in 
the absence, too, of all motives to vice. She has not a 
profound mind^ but her faculties are very muscular, and 
she is endowed with a certain restless and impatient 
temperament, which drives her to the pursuit of knowl- 
edge, not so much for the value of the knowledge, but for 
some rope to twist, some grist to her mill." 

Few spiritual touches could be more instructive than 
this conflict of minds so akin in many interests and so 
closely thrown together. A certain justice in Emer- 
son's complaints is undeniable. Mrs. Ripley's was in no 
way a creative, original intelligence. She knew that it 
was not, and perhaps we may say, did not wish it to be. 
Her mental activity does at times appear an effort at 
diversion and distraction, rather than a passionate 
struggle toward the ultimate ends of thought. Yet it is 
hard to be satisfied with Emerson's criticism, when one 
reads passages like the following : " Religion has become 
so simple a matter to me — a yearning after God, an 
earnest desire for the peace that flows from the con- 
sciousness of union with Him. It is the last thought that 
floats through my mind as I sleep, the first that comes 
when I wake. It forms the basis of my present life, 



62 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 

saddened by past experience. It bedims my eyes with 
tears when I walk out into the beautiful nature where 
love is all around me. And yet no direct ray comes to 
my soul." 

The true cause of the difference between Mrs. Rip- 
ley and Emerson was that her unconquerable, uncom- 
promising dread of illusion did not suit his persistent 
and somewhat willful optimism. The lucid shafts of 
her penetrating intelligence drove right through his 
gorgeous cloud-fabric. Doubtless she listened to his 
golden visions with the profoundest attention and re- 
spect. But she was ten years older than he; she had 
known him as a boy and from boyhood, and she read 
the boy in the man and the angel, and he knew she did. 

I have no direct evidence whatever, but I am inclined 
to suspect that she regarded those eager pages, peppered 
with capitalized abstractions, as Waldo's pretty play- 
things, which amused Waldo and could hurt nobody. 

Emerson's verdict on Mrs. Ripley's moral character 
also, if not unjust, is misleading. It might naturally be 
expected that scepticism so complete would have some 
moral effects; but in this case those mainly perceptible 
are a divine gentleness and tolerance. Theoretical dis- 
beHef is apt to blight action. But action was so forced 
upon Mrs. Ripley all her life, that she could neither 



SARAH ALDEN RIPLEY 63 

shun it nor neglect it. As to her moral instincts, Emer- 
son himself indicates their sureness and delicacy. They 
never failed her in any connection. It was far more 
than a negative correctness of conduct. It was the most 
subtle and pervading sympathy with purity, holiness, 
and sacrifice, wherever they might be found. Above 
all, there was in her letters as in her life — and this 
Emerson fully recognizes — a singular tenderness, a 
pervading grace of comprehension, that endeared her 
to all who knew her. And hers is the saying, notable in 
one who so greatly prized all honesty and veracity. 
"The law of love is higher than the law of truth." In 
short, it may well be said that she believed in nothing 
but goodness, kindliness, the dignity of virtue and the 
unfailing delight of the pursuit of knowledge. Even as 
to these things she sometimes doubted, though they were 
clamped with iron tenacity to the inmost fiber of her 
soul, as to the existence of which she doubted also. 

But, however great the charm of Mrs. Ripley's pure 
and saintly external life, the chief interest of her char- 
acter, and of her example, must always lie in her ex- 
traordinary devotion to intellectual matters. It is to be 
observed that from her early childhood to her age this de- 
votion was absolutely disinterested. Most men who make 
a business of study combine it with some ulterior object. 



64 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 

either professional success, or financial profit, or the 
glory of literary achievement or of scientific discovery. 
This woman never entertained the slightest suggestion 
of such advantage. With her there was but one aim, — 
the pure exercise of thought for itself, the perpetual 
probing a little deeper and a little deeper and a little 
deeper into the vast, elusive mystery of existence. Such 
a tremendous and unceasing voyage of discovery car- 
ried its own triumph and its own satisfaction with it, and 
its resources of desire and delight were as varied as 
they were inexhaustible. 

In Pater's "Imaginary Portrait,'* Sebastian van 
Storck says to his mother, "Good mother, there are 
duties towards the intellect also, which women can but 
rarely understand." No man ever understood those 
duties to the intellect better than this woman understood 
them. 



Ill 

MARY LYON 



CHRONOLOGY 
Mary Lyon 

Bom in Buckland, Massachusetts, February 28, 1797. 
Mount Holyoke Seminary opened November, 1837. 
Died March 5, 1849. 




MARY LYON 



Ill 

MARY LYON 
I 

Mary Lyon, the foundress of Mount Holyoke College, 
had a magnificently persistent spirit. She did what 
she set out to do and got what she wanted to get. No 
doubt the grit and determination in her were fostered, 
if not bred, by the sturdy, rugged training of her child- 
hood. Born at the very close of the eighteenth cen- 
tury, on a farm In western Massachusetts, she was 
brought up by a widowed mother with many children 
and small means. The discipline was stern, but it rooted 
character deep down among the solid needs and essen- 
tial efforts of existence. Every moment of life was of 
use and was put to use. When Mary was hardly out 
of infancy, her mother found her one day apparently 
trifling with the hourglass, but she explained that she 
thought she had discovered a way of making more 
time.^ As years went on, she did make more time, by 
getting double work and thought into what there was. 
It was not time only; but every resource of life must 
be made to yield all there was in it and a little more. 



68 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 

"Economy," she said to her pupils later, "is not 
always doing without things. It is making them do the 
best they can." ^ Nothing helps so much towards this 
final extraction of utility as knowing the exact nature 
of things, not only what they serve for, but how they 
are made, even knowing how to make them one's self. 
Mary made her own clothes from cloth made by her 
own hands. Many other women did this; but Mary, 
when she lived near a brickyard, wanted to make brick, 
and did it. Always she had the instinct and the habit 
and the genius for doing something. 

Very early, however, she appreciated that to do some- 
thing, in her sense, a wider and ampler education was 
needed than a New England farm would give her. The 
most essential education — that of character — she could 
indeed give herself. Self-training, self-discipline, she 
began early and kept up to the end. When a friend 
ventured to suggest the getting rid of certain little awk- 
wardnesses, she replied, with perfect good humor, "I 
have corrected more such things than anybody ought 
to have." ^ She corrected little defects as well as great. 

But no one knew better than she that education 
could not come wholly from within. There were broad 
regions of spiritual joy and spiritual usefulness which 
must be explored by the help and the guidance of others. 



MARY LYON 69 

The means of obtaining such help and guidance for 
women in those days were Hmited, and Mary's situa- 
tion and circumstances made them doubly limited for 
her. But what persistent and determined effort could 
do, she did. Her natural capacity for acquisition was 
undoubtedly great. She said of herself, in a connec- 
tion that precluded boasting, "My mind runs like 
lightning."^ It not only moved swiftly, but it held 
what it seized as it went. She was given a Latin gram- 
mar on Friday night. On Monday she recited the 
whole of it. I do not know how much this means, not 
having seen the grammar; but obviously it means 
enough, even with her humiliating confession that she 
had studied all day Sunday. 

In her case, however, it was less the brilliancy than 
the everlasting persistence that counted. She had no 
money to get an education. Very well, she would get 
the money first and the education afterward. She went 
to school when she could ; when she could not, she taught 
others — for seventy-five cents a week and her board. 
The opportunities that she did get for her own work 
she improved mightily. Those with whom she boarded 
when she was studying say that she slept only four 
hours out of the twenty-four. They add, with the 
amazement which persons differently constituted feel 



70 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 

for such endeavor : " She is all intellect : she does not 
know that she has a body to care for." ^ 

But do not imagine that she was a mere human 
machine, created to think of work only. She had her 
ups and downs, as those who sleep only four hours must 
— her days when work seemed impossible and, what is 
worse, not worth doing; her utter discouragements, 
when the only relief was tears. She inquired one night 
how soon tea would be ready; was told, immediately; 
and on being asked the reason of her evident disap- 
pointment, replied : " I was only wishing to have a good 
crying-spell, and you could not give me time enough." ® 

How far other emotions touched her active youth we 
do not know. She was always sweet and merry with 
her companions, but she had not leisure for much social 
dissipation. One or two vague glimpses come of lov- 
ing or, much more, of being loved, but they lead to 
nothing. Other interests more absorbing filled that 
eager and busy heart. As she looked back from later 
triumphs at the struggles of these early days, she said: 
"In my youth I had much vigor — was always aspiring 
after something. I called it loving to study. Had few 
to direct me aright. One teacher I shall always re- 
member. He told me education was to fit one to do 
good.""^ 



MARY LYON 71 

Whatever education might be, she sought it with a 
fervent zeal which was an end in itself as well as a 
most efficient means. 

II 

To get an education for herself, with heroic effort, was 
not enough for Miss Lyon. In getting it, she came to 
feel its value and others' need of it. Obtaining it for 
them was an object for as much zeal and devotion as 
she had bestowed upon her own. No one then felt it 
necessary that women should be educated as men were. 
Men, whether educated themselves or not, felt it to be 
distinctly unnecessary; and the suggestion of system- 
atic intellectual training for the weaker, domestic sex 
did not fill the ordinary husband and father with en- 
thusiasm. A fashionable finishing school was a girl's 
highest ambition, and to be accomplished, pending being 
married, was the chief aim of her existence. To Miss 
Lyon it seemed that women had brains as well as men, 
were as well able to use them, and often more eager. 
And she determined very early to devote her life to 
giving them the opportunity. 

Her object was certainly not money-making. Her 
personal standards were always simple, and her earn- 
ings, when she did earn, would seem, even to the mod- 



72 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 

ern teacher, pitiful. In fact, her view of profit and the 
teacher's profession, like that of Socrates, was ideal 
to the point of extravagance. "If money-making is 
your object," she cries, "be milliners or dressmakers; 
but teaching is a sacred, not a mercenary employment." ^ 

So with the ambition to be great and prominent and 
remembered. Who shall say that any one is wholly 
free from the subtle and searching temptation here? 
But at least she is free from it so far as she knows 
herself. Some, she writes, will say that Miss Grant and 
Miss Lyon wish to have " a great institution established, 
and to see themselves at the head of the whole, and 
then they will be satisfied."® And she recognizes that 
this is human nature, and she does not trouble herself 
to deny the allegation directly, but her tone implies that 
it touches her not. 

Nor did she seek to be of use to those who had wealth 
or social prominence or influence. They could take care 
of themselves. What she wished to provide for was 
the great mass of women throughout the country who 
had little means or none, but the same devouring thirst 
for better things that had tormented her. She would 
exclude no one who was really worthy, no one, as she 
said herself, but "harmless cumberers of the ground" 
and those "whose highest ambition is to be qualified to 



MARY LYON 73 

amuse a friend in a vacant hour." ^^ Such, rich or poor, 
might find their vocation elsewhere. The saving of their 
souls was not her business. 

So, trusting in the goodness of God and in her own 
unbounded energy, she set about taking a great step 
in the forward progress of the world. She was prac- 
tically unknown; she had no money; she had no in- 
fluence, she had no access to the many agencies which 
facilitate the advancement of great undertakings. She 
had only courage and hope. "When we decide that it 
is best to perform a certain duty, we should expect suc- 
cess in it, if it is not utterly impossible," ^^ she said 
quietly; and she practiced as she preached. She was 
ready to make any sacrifice. "Our personal comforts 
are delightful, not essential." ^^ 

She approached every one who could possibly help 
her, with tireless, but not tedious, persistency. She 
went into people's homes and pointed out what she was 
trying to do for them, showed fathers and mothers 
what their daughters needed and how little effort would 
help to get it. 

She spoke publicly on formal occasions; she spoke 
privately to any one who she thought might assist her, 
even to strangers. Some of her friends complained of 
this. In that day it seemed odd for a woman to make 



74 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 

herself so conspicuous, and the doubters feared that she 
might injure her cause instead of aiding it. She dif- 
fered from them positively. "What do I do that is 
wrong?" she urged. "I hope I behave like a lady; I 
mean to do so." Who that knows anything of her will 
question that she did? But she was working for a great 
cause and she did not mean to let trifles stand in her 
way. " My heatrt is sick," she cried; "my soul is pained 
with this empty gentility, this genteel nothingness. I am 
doing a great work. I cannot come down." ^^ 

Of course there were discouragements, crying spells, 
no doubt, as in the earlier days; times when everything 
went wrong, and the world seemed utterly indifferent. 
The very vastness of the hope made it shadowy, and 
she had her lurking possibilities of scepticism. "I 
always fear when I find my heart thus clinging to the 
hope of future good."" There was physical collapse, 
too, under such enormous effort, even in a body mainly 
healthy. For two or three days, sometimes, she would 
give herself up to a state of partial stupor, forgetting 
even hope and duty in an absolute relaxation of all 
nervous energy. 

Then she would emerge, with fatigue and depression 
behind her, ready to face any difficulty and overcome 
any obstacle. " It is one of the nicest of mental opera- 



MARY LYON 75 

tions," she said, "to distinguish between what is very- 
difficult and what is utterly impossible." ^^ But what 
was impossible to others was apparently only difficult 
to her. Walls hardly built and hardly paid for might 
fall down, and her only comment was one of delight 
that no one was hurt. Stupid and obstinate people 
might oppose her methods, but somehow or other she 
accomplished the result. "She made the impression 
on every one with whom she had anything to do, from 
the common day-laborer to the president of a college, 
that if she set herself to do anything, it was of no use 
to oppose her." ^^ 

This does not mean that she was rough or overbear- 
ing in her methods, that she forced money out of 
pockets, or souls into the kingdom of God. She had, 
indeed, her share of the prophet's severity. If she had 
let herself go, she might have reprehended and repri- 
manded with a righteous scorn. In one wealthy house- 
hold, where she had expected much, she got nothing, 
and to friends who had foretold her failure she con- 
fided, with bitterness: "They live in a costly house; it 
is full of costly things; they wear costly clothes, but 
oh, they're little bits of folks !"^^ 

Such bitterness she mainly kept to herself, however. 
She knew that her progress must be slow, often hin- 



76 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 

dered, and often tortuous. She disciplined herself not 
to hope too much and to forget disappointments. She 
practiced infinite patience. " I learned twenty years ago 
never to get out of patience." ^^ She would not dispute 
or argue. She would state her position, her plans, her 
prospects. She would answer every question which 
really tended to clarify. Then the conscience of her 
hearers was left to work by itself. Attacks, abuse, sar- 
casm, slander, touched her not. She did not deserve 
them, why should she heed them? They distressed her 
friends, and one of the closest. Professor Hitchcock, 
wrote an answer which he submitted to Miss Lyon's 
consideration. "That was the last I ever saw of it," 
he said.^^ 

Instead of this sharper combativeness, she worked 
by persuasion, by insinuation, by tact and sympathy. 
She would not yield a syllable of her main theory; but 
if anything was to be gained by meeting criticism in a 
detail, by accepting a minor suggestion, she was always 
ready. "In deviating from others," she advised, "be 
as inoffensive as possible; excite no needless opposi- 
tion"^^ She excited none, where it could be avoided, 
and people found themselves agreeing with her before 
they knew it, and almost against their will. She con- 
quered less by formal argument than by personal charm, 



MARY LYON yy 

and had the golden faculty of making others feel that 
her will was their own. One who knew her well said 
that she held men "by invisible attractions which it 
was hard to resist and from which very few wished to 
be released." ^* Another simpler mind put it still better : 
" I would have done anything she asked me to. Every- 
body would." ^^ 

The habit of getting what she wanted from others 
came naturally. That of making use of what she got, 
perhaps somewhat less so. She had to train herself a 
little in business methods. This a clear and sound 
brain can always do, and she did it. But order and 
system and punctuality seem at first to have been diffi- 
cult for her. She was not born neat and tidy in trifles. 
Some women's things, she said, seemed to have feet 
and to know their right places and return to them of 
their own accord. Hers did not. She was not born 
punctual or with a consciousness of time. If she got 
interested in a task, she wanted to finish it, regardless 
of the arrival of the hour for doing something else. 
She wanted to go to bed when she pleased, to get up 
when she pleased; not at a set and given minute. 

But she understood these weaknesses, and had con- 
quered them in all essentials, before she entered upon 
her great work. If she was not born a woman of busi- 



78 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 

ness, she made herself one, and she had overcome inner 
obstacles before she began her fight with those with- 
out. Therefore she was able, not only to raise the 
sums she needed, but to use them wisely; and, after 
innumerable difficulties, in the autumn of 1837, Mount 
Holyoke Seminary was opened. 

It was a day of triumph for Miss Lyon — of pure, 
personal triumph, of course it was. She would not have 
been human if it had not been. She had labored through 
years of toil and vexation. Now at last the way was 
clear to accomplish what she had dreamed. Of an 
earlier time of prosperity she says: "There is an un- 
usual evenness and uniformity in my feelings, freedom 
from excitement, or any rising above the common 
level." ^^ But on that November day in 1837 her spirits 
certainly did rise above the common level. She saw 
all that she had longed for and hoped for realized in 
that plain, square building with its vast possibilities, 
and her words have the inspiration of a prophetess: 
"The stones and brick and mortar speak a language 
which vibrates through my very soul."^^ 

Ill 

So she had performed her huge task, her practically 
single-handed task, of preparing the material facilities 



MARY LYON 79 

for extending education. Now came the subtle and 
complicated labor of conveying it. And first as to the 
negative problem, so to speak, that of discipline. This 
considerable body of girls had been brought together, 
unaccustomed to the restraints of community life. How 
to train them to do their best work without injuring 
themselves or each other? 

To begin with, Miss Lyon did not believe too much 
in formal rules. Of course a certain number of such 
rules was necessary, as always. But she endeavored 
to impress upon her girls the spirit of those rules and 
not the letter. She brought home to them vividly the 
struggle between the body and the mind, and the ab- 
solute necessity of making the mind master at the start. 
"The mind," she told them, "should not sit down and 
wash the body's feet, but the body should obey the 
mind."^^ 

So in relations with others. It was not so much a 
question of following rules as of getting into the right 
tone. " Avoid trying the patience or irritating the feel- 
ings of others," ^^ she reminded them. She made her pre- 
cise directions flow from such general precepts as these. 

Then she trusted the girls to carry them out. Of 
course, they could not always be trusted, and she knew 
that they could not. They were human and young and 



8o PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 

girls, and had their weaknesses. Dress and boys were 
in their thoughts, as they always have been and always 
will be. But something about Miss Lyon's presence 
took the place of rules — something about the thought 
of her presence. " One could not do wrong where she 
was," ^^ writes one pupil. There were occasionally those 
who could do wrong and did, either from carelessness 
or even from contumacy. With them Miss Lyon had 
such vigor as was needed. Read the quaint old biog- 
rapher's account of the forcible removal of one young 
woman from one room to another : " ' You must go into 
the large room,' said the teacher." The young woman 
went.^^ 

But usually the reliance was less upon coercion than 
upon persuasion. "She will try to make us vote so- 
and-so, and I won't vote that way — I won't," ^^ said one 
recalcitrant to another as they prepared to listen to her 
gentle exhortation. Then they voted as she wished. 
Above all, her discipline was dynamic, consisted in instill- 
ing a bewitching impluse to do things, not to avoid things. 
"Our happiness lies largely in remembering," she said; 
"do what will be pleasant to remember." And what- 
ever you do, put life into it. Do not half do, or do 
negligently. "Learn to sit with energy." ^^ Did ever 
any one put more character into a phrase than that ? 



MARY LYON 8i 

And as they were taught energy, so they were taught 
the use of it by order and method. Hours should be 
planned and kept and followed. "I have suffered all 
my life from the want of regular habits," she told her 
girls; "I wish you to accustom yourselves to be thor- 
oughly systematic in the division of your time and 
duties." ^^ Train and discipline the mind, she urged 
upon them, govern your thoughts. "Bring the mind 
to a perfect abstraction and let thought after thought 
pass through it."^^ 

She herself was ardent, full of emotion, full of im- 
pulse. "I endeavor daily to avoid excessive emotions 
on any subject," ^^ she says. She was not always suc- 
cessful, and admitted it; but she wanted those who 
learned from her to be better than she. Even in giv- 
ing, in charity, which meant so much to her, she 
advised restraint and intelligence. "If you had really 
rather spend your money on yourselves, spend it." Do 
not overdo from the impulse of the moment. "I don't 
want artificial fire."^* In short, she was as anxious 
to make progress solid and sure as to establish it upon 
an undying enthusiasm. "Character," she told those 
incorrigible workers of samplers, "like embroidery, is 
made stitch by stitch." ^^ 

From all this you gather perhaps an impression of 



82 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 

pedantry, of formal priggishness. It is true that, as 
we look back from the familiarity of to-day. Miss Lyon's 
methods and manners sometimes seem stiff, like her 
caps. Her girls to her were always "young ladies," 
as their contemporaries of the other sex were "young 
gentlemen." Her phraseology was elaborate, and she 
wished others to use the same. In her portraits one 
perceives a certain primness, and the undeniable beauty 
has also an undeniable suggestion of austerity. If haste 
made her sometimes forget to fasten a button or adjust 
a tie, one imagines her upon any state occasion as com- 
plete in her dignity as Queen Elizabeth herself. 

But brief study suffices to penetrate beneath this 
superficial stiffness and form. "It is very important 
a teacher should not be schoolified," ^^ said Miss Lyon 
to her pupils. 

Many teachers say this, not so many practice it. She 
did. Under the formal garb and manner, she was es- 
sentially human. In the first place, she had the keen- 
est insight into human strength and weakness. She 
knew the heart, or at least knew that none of us know 
it, and was ever alive to opportunities to increase her 
knowledge. In one case she comments with the keenest 
analysis upon the weaknesses of a relative, and then 
apologizes for doing so; "only I love to remark the 



MARY LYON 83 

extreme unlikeness in members of the same family." ^^ 
In general, the good qualities impress her most, though 
she notes this with due reserve: "On the whole, as I 
grow in years, I have a better opinion of people." ^^ 

But her humanity went far deeper than mere obser- 
vation and insight. Under the formal outside there was 
the most sensitive affection and tenderness. She loved 
her pupils as if they were her daughters, felt as if she 
must supply the mother's place to every one of them. 

"You are spoiling that child," said her teachers, of 
one whom she petted, though she never really showed 
any favoritism. Her answer was : " Well, she is young 
and far from her mother, and I am sorry for her, and 
I don't believe it will hurt her." ^^ 

This was only one instance out of many. When girls 
were solitary and homesick and weary and discour- 
aged, she could and did sympathize, for she had known 
all those things herself and went back readily to the 
days when she had said that she had " but just physical 
strength enough left to bear her home, just intellect 
enough to think the very small thoughts of a little 
infant, and just emotion enough to tremble under the 
shock." ^« 

In short, she had the supreme element of sympathy, 
the power of always putting one's self in the place of 



84 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 

another. Nothing can be of greater help to a teacher 
or to any leader of men or women than this, and saying 
after saying of Miss Lyon's shows how richly she was 
endowed with it. The brief remarks and comments 
gathered at the end of Miss Fidelia Fiske's quaint little 
volume of "Recollections" are the best illustration of 
what I mean. " More than nine tenths of the suffering 
we endure is because those around us do not show that 
regard for us which we think they ought to."/* This 
bit of wisdom, curiously exaggerated for a thinker so 
careful as Miss Lyon, is as interesting for what it sug- 
gests about herself as about her study and comprehen- 
sion of others. 

With the sympathetic and imaginative power of put- 
ting one's self in the place of others is apt to go a large 
and fine sense of humor. Had Miss Lyon this? It is 
amusing to see how answers vary. Some of the numer- 
ous pupils who have written reminiscences of her insist 
that she had no humor at all, that she rarely, if ever, 
smiled, and took life always from the serious side. 
Others are equally positive that she was ready for a 
jest, and on occasion could twinkle with merriment. 
The explanation of these conflicting views probably is 
that she was very different with different people. Some 
persons have the faculty of cherishing the warm flame 



MARY LYON 85 

o£ humor, of teasing even fretted spirits into bright and 
gracious gayety. Others put out that pleasant flame as 
a snuffer puts out a candle. I have known pupils of 
Miss Lyon with whom I am sure that she was always 
as serious as the bird of Pallas. 

Then, too, she was brought up in an age that re- 
strained laughter. As a teacher, she knew the danger 
of satire, and herself admitted that she had to be on 
her guard against her appreciation of the ludicrous, 
lest she should do irreparable damage to sensitive hearts. 
Moreover, the Puritan strain was strong in her and 
she shied at any suggestion of uncontrolled gayety for 
herself or those she guided. " It is not true," insists an 
admiring pupil, "that Miss Lyon enjoyed /zw.' . . . *Fun,' 
she said, ' is a word no young lady should use.' " ^^ 

Yet I dare swear that she enjoyed fun just the same; 
that she could see a joke, and take and make a joke. 
One would certainly not say of her, in the dainty phrase 
of the old poet, — 

"Her heart was full of jigs and her feet did wander 
Even as autumn's dust." 

But, at any rate in youth, before care settled too 
heavily, she was capable of full-lunged, resounding 
cachinnation. "Mr. Pomeroy's father has heard Miss 
Lyon, when a girl, laugh half a mile away, from one 



86 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 

hill to another. Once she laughed so loud she scared 
the colts in the field and made them run away." ^* 

Now, isn't that jolly? In later years she did not, 
indeed, scare the colts or the coltish young ladies, but 
there can be no doubt that large possibilities of spiritual 
laughter lightened the troubles and vexations that 
were inseparable from her triumph. To be sure, she 
sometimes fell into strange freaks of professional sol- 
emnity, such as seem quite inconsistent with any sense 
of humor at all, as when she cautioned her young 
ladies: "The violation of the seventh commandment 
may and ought to be examined as a general subject, 
but beware of learning particulars";** or again: 
" Choose the society of such gentlemen as will converse 
without even once seeming to think that you are a 
lady."*^ But I believe the winking of an eye would 
have made her see the humorous slant of these sug- 
gestions. She saw it in regard to many others, and 
especially in regard to that most delicate of humorous 
t( sts, the absurdity of one's self. Is there not a depth 
of humor in her overheard remark, as she stood before 
the mirror trying to tie her bonnet-strings: "Well, I 
inay fail of heaven, but I shall be very much disap- 
pointed if I do — very much disappointed."*^ 

All this analysis of Miss Lyon's educational influ- 



MARY LYON 87 

ence, her discipline, her method, her sympathy, her 
laughter, does not catch the entire depth and power 
of it. We must add the magnetism, the gift of inspira- 
tion. She could draw money out of men's pockets ; she 
could draw folly out of girls' souls and put thought 
and earnest effort in its place. Never give up, she 
taught them; never submit, never be beaten. "Teach 
till you make a success of it."'*'^ Live with high ideas, 
she taught them; make noble dreams noble realities. 
" Our thoughts have the same effect on us as the com- 
pany we keep."^^ When you have a great object in 
view, let no obstacle, no difficulty, distract you from it. 
" Go where no one else is willing to go ; do what no one 
else is willing to do." *^ 

And she herself never forgot the greatest test of 
teaching; did her best to keep it before all who assisted 
her and worked under her. " Make the dull ones think 
once a day, make their eyes sparkle once a day."^*' The 
teacher who can do this has indeed magnetism, has in- 
spiration. She did it, perhaps many times a day. 

IV 

It is interesting that the enthusiasm of scholarship 
proper is not a marked element in Miss Lyon. She 
had an immense desire to educate herself; later, an im- 



88 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 

mense desire to educate others. It does not appear 
that in youth or in age she was overpowered by the 
passion for acquiring* knowledge as an end merely. 
Now and then she has words that seem to belie this. 
" There are peculiar sweets derived from gaining knowl- 
edge, delights known only to those who have tested 
them,"^^ she says. She pursued all varieties of study 
with equal ardor. Mathematics, logic, science, litera- 
ture, — she was at home in all, delighted to talk about 
them, delighted to teach them. But you feel instantly 
the difference between her and, for example, Mrs. 
Samuel Ripley, in this regard. Mrs. Ripley followed 
all studies because they were all in themselves equally 
delightful. Miss Lyon followed them all because they 
were all, comparatively speaking, indifferent. To Mrs. 
Ripley knowledge was an end in itself, an all-sufficing, 
inexhaustible end. To Miss Lyon knowledge was only 
a beginning. Mathematics and all the rest were bright, 
sharp, splendid instruments. The first thing was to get 
them; but an infinitely more important thing was what 
you could do with them. What a significant, if uninten- 
tional, revelation there is in the phrase I have already 
quoted (italics mine) : "In my youth I had much vigor 
— was always aspiring after something. / called it 
loving to study.'" ^^ What scorn there is in another 



MARY LYON 89 

brief phrase of her later years : " The intellectual miser 
is an object of contempt." ^^ 

No, she was not essentially a scholar ; she could never 
have been content to spend long hours and long years 
over books and the problems of books. She was essen- 
tially and by every instinct a teacher. And her object 
in teaching was not to make other scholars. In all the 
great volume of "Reminiscences" contributed by her 
pupils, pure scholarship fills but a very little place. 
What she aimed at was to teach girls, not to know, 
but to live. It is true, her biographer says that in her 
early years of teaching her great aim was to make 
scholars. But even so, I think she was anxious rather 
to succeed in anything she had undertaken than to im- 
part the fine fury of intellectual acquirement. 

And as time went on, the mere lore of books took a 
more and more subordinate place. Life was to be 
studied, character was to be studied, all the curious, 
subtle, surrounding and moulding influences that govern 
our existence. "Make as much effort to gain knowl- 
edge from objects around us, from passing events, and 
from conversation, as from books." ^^ She labored hard 
and long at the greatest of human tasks, — that of 
making people think for themselves. " Knowledge and 
reflection," she said, "should balance"; — though she 



go PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 

added, with a sigh, that " all we can do in this matter, 
is to stand about the outer court and say, 'Won't you 
reflect? '"^^ 

And her object was not only reflection, but reflection 
turned into conduct. She wanted to take a group of 
bright and eager spirits from the great middle circle 
of democracy and send them out again to make over 
the world. This America, as she then saw with almost 
prophetic vision, needed so many things, some con- 
sciously and some unconsciously. She wanted her girls 
to do something toward supplying the need, " We have 
made it an object," she said, "to gain enlarged and 
correct views ... as to what needs to be done, what 
can be done, what ought to be done; and, finally, as to 
what is our duty."^® 

To know one's duty, in the largest sense, and to do 
it, was her idea of education. As one of her pupils 
expresses it, " her first aim was to make us Christians ; 
her second to cultivate us intellectually."^'^ But her 
own phrase, far finer, rings like a trumpet : " That they 
should live for God and do something." ^^ 

V 

Here we have the essence of Miss Lyon's teaching, of 
her work in the world, of her own heart, — that they 



MARY LYON 91 

should live for God and do something. Is it not, so 
far as it goes, a splendid, direct, and simple clue to 
the great problem of education? It is, perhaps, for the 
lack of such a clue that nowadays we grope and 
flounder so dismally. For who will deny that in all 
the difficulties that beset educative theory at the present 
day the greatest is that we do not know what we want? 
The old convenient standard of a liberal education is 
slipping from us, has slipped from us completely. What 
are we to put in the place of it? Two at least of our 
great institutions of learning have mottoes that suggesi: 
Miss Lyon's, " Not to be ministered unto but to minis- 
ter," and "For Christ and the Church." But we can 
neither agree about what they mean nor unite to apply 
them. As with the unhappily married couple in Mr. 
Ade's Fable, " The motto in the dining-room said, ' Love 
one another,' but they were too busy to read." In- 
stead, we turn to the practical issue of bread and 
butter, and make it our educational ideal to train men 
and women to go out into the world and contend with 
their fellows for the material necessaries of life. 

Miss Lyon's aim was simpler — not always easy to 
apply, perhaps, but tangible, and, above all, inspiring 
from its very nature: That they should live for God 
and do something. But to understand the full bearing 



92 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 

of the words, we must consider more carefully what 
God was to Miss Lyon herself. 

To begin with, her religion was not a matter of con- 
vention, not a mere tradition accepted from others and 
passed on to others again, without an intimate grasp 
of its nature and meaning. She came slowly to the 
fullness and ripeness of faith; regretted often in her 
early years that the divine ecstasy descended less amply 
upon her than upon some more favored. She abhorred 
pretense, the theory of feeling; wanted only sentiments 
that were truly hers. How admirable is her confusion 
in the presence of great natural beauty : " I feared that 
I should be unable to feel the soul-moving power, and 
I had an ardent desire that I might not acknowledge, 
even to myself, any second-hand emotions, any influ- 
ence which did not affect my own heart." ^^ Second- 
hand emotions! Do we not all of us need to beware 
of them? 

As religion took fuller possession of her, she did 
not suffer herself to be unduly exalted. To others it 
seemed to come with ease and swiftness of glory. It 
came with struggle and effort and long agony to her. 
"In view of invisible and divine realities, my mind is 
darkened, my preceptlons feeble, my heart cold anci 
stupid. It seems as if such a low, groveling worm of 



MARY LYON 93 

the dust could never be fitted for heaven." ^° There 
were days of distress and discouragement, days of bar- 
renness, if not of doubt. "Sometimes I almost feel 
that I am not my own, but I find my heart repeatedly 
desiring those things from which I had almost sup- 
posed it was forever separated."®* 

A clear, calm, intellectual analysis was so natural to 
her that she was tempted to apply it where faith and 
love would have been more wholesome; although, in 
the end, with the author of the "Imitation," she finds 
that "after winter comes summer, after the night the 
day, and after a storm a great calm." "It is won- 
derful to me how the mind, after a state of doubt 
and difficulty from which it seemed impossible to be 
extricated, can, without any new light or new evi- 
dence, settle down into a state of calm and quiet 
decision." ®^ 

But all these negative elements were as nothing to 
the joy and rapture which religion gave her. She was 
certainly not a mystic in the sense of pure contempla- 
tion. Action was life to her, her soul was dynamic, 
and her conception of God must have been that of a 
full, outflowing, energetic, creative love. But this en- 
ergy of action came to her, seasoned and flavored with 
rapturous delight. "I love sometimes," she says, "to 



94 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 

lose sight of individuals, in thinking of the bundles of 
eternal life and happiness that are bound up together 
in heaven." ^^ And again: "But amidst the darkness, 
and with a burden on my heart which I cannot de- 
scribe, there is something in my soul which seems like 
trust in God, that is like a peaceful river, overflowing 
all its banks." «^ 

She wanted to bathe all who followed her in this 
peaceful river, to make them partakers of this sustain- 
ing and enduring joy; and to do this, she wanted to 
build up their souls on an assured and stable founda- 
tion of thought and devotion and self-control and self- 
sacrifice. It must be admitted that some of her methods 
for accomplishing her end seem to us now strange and 
a little repellent, though perhaps they were none the 
worse for that. Even to-day some persons feel that 
dancing is not a very profitable employment; but few 
would go so far as Miss Lyon: "When Satan would 
spread his net to fascinate, allure, and destroy, he never 
omits the dance." ^^ The payment 'of small debts is 
undoubtedly desirable ; but it is making a serious matter 
of it to urge that " it might be impossible, when, praying 
for some one, to keep out of mind a ten cents her due." ^^ 
Again, the following injunction seems a little porten- 
tous, though eminently appropriate to much modern 



MARY LYON 95 

youthful reading : " Never read a book without first 
praying over it."*^^ 

These extremes make us smile. Others more solemn 
make us tremble. Miss Lyon believed in hell with all 
her soul. "If she had ever a flitting doubt of the 
certainty of future retributions, that doubt was never 
known or suspected by her most intimate friends." ^^ She 
proposed to have her pupils believe in hell also. She 
stood before them in chapel, a quiet, prim New England 
lady, and made hell real. " It was the warning voice of 
one who saw the yawning gulf. She would point to the 
dark, shelving, fatal precipice, without a gesture, with- 
out a motion, save of her moving lips, her hand laid 
devoutly on that well-worn octavo Bible. She would 
uncover the fiery billows rolling below, in the natural 
but low, deep tones with which men talk of their 
wills, their cofiins, and their graves." ^^ And this to a 
company of young girls, at the most sensitive, emotional 
age, just snatched from their sheltering homes and al- 
ready unhinged by novel strains of every kind. It seems 
to us like saving their souls at fearful peril to their 
bodies. 

Even Miss Lyon's most concrete definition of educa- 
tion, so often quoted, will hardly be quoted by any one 
to-day without a smile of good-natured amusement, — 



96 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 

" A lady should be so educated that she can go as a mis- 
sionary at a fortnight's notice." '^^ 

Yet, in spite of all these excesses, I believe that the 
essence of the matter was with Miss Lyon. The minor 
drawbacks, the superficial eccentricities, — even hell, — 
fall away, and leave her dominant and vital with the su- 
preme object of all her thought and life, which was God. 
Those who followed her, she taught, must get out of 
themselves, forget themselves : " How much happier 
you would be to live in a thousand lives beside yourself 
rather than to live in yourself alone !"'^^ They must 
be ready to give all, to sacrifice all, to endure all, for 
Christ and His Kingdom : " Property, education, time, 
influence, friends, children, brothers and sisters, all 
should be devoted to this object!"'''^ And in giving, in 
sacrificing, there should be no waywardness, no willful- 
ness, no whim of the individual. " Neither teachers nor 
scholars should have any way of their own, or will of 
their own, but all should be swallowed up in the will of 
God."^^ 

Finally, the heart of the whole was not merely doing, 
not merely the devoted, unremitting effort to do right, 
but rapture and glory : " Our minds are so constituted 
that nothing but God can fill them." ^* 

"There is but one thing needful," said Amiel, "to 



MARY LYON 97 

possess God." Miss Lyon thought it needful, not only 
to possess God herself, but to make all others possess 
Him, and she could not feel her own possession perfect 
when she was not laboring at this magnificent, if 
impossible, task. 



IV 
HARRIET BEECHER STOWE 



CHRONOLOGY 

Harriet Elizabeth Beecher. 

Bom in Litchfield, Connecticut, June 14, 181 1. 

At school in Hartford, 1824. 

Converted, 1825. 

Taught at Hartford, 1827 to 1832. 

Went to Cincinnati, Ohio, to teach, 1832. 

■Married Rev. Calvin E. Stowe, January 6, 1 836. 

Removed to Brunswick, Maine, 1850. 

" Uncle Tom's Cabin " published, 1852. 

Removed to Andover, Massachusetts, 1852. 

In Europe, 1853, 1856, 1859. 

Removed to Hartford, 1863. 

Mr. Stowe died August, 1886. 

Died, July i, 1896. 




HARRIET BEECHER STOWE 



lY 

HARRIET BEECHER STOWE 

I 

She was a little woman, rather plain than beautiful, 
but with energy, sparkle, and vivacity written all over 
her. I always think of her curls, but they were not 
curls of coquetry or curls of sentiment; they were 
just alive, as she was, and danced and quivered when 
she nodded and glowed. 

The first half of the nineteeth century, when she 
was growing up, was still the age of ministers in New 
England, and she was of a ministerial family, grew 
up in that atmosphere, and inherited all its traditions. 
Only she preached in books, not from the pulpit. She 
passed her youth among the joys and torments of re- 
ligion, as then practiced. She married and had children. 
Then she set the world afire with " Uncle Tom's Cabin," 
made money, which she sorely needed, wrote more 
books, a huge number of them, made more money in 
proportion, spent it with much generosity and some joy, 
and died, perhaps a great author, certainly having been 
a great power in her day. 



102 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 

She did all this with health that was never robust, 
never reliable, and often wretched. " A wisp of nerve," ^ 
she calls herself ; and she was. " She loved more," says 
her biographer, "and consequently suffered more 
than others, and the weight of her suffering was 
heavier because she had grown up, apparently, almost 
without care, either from herself or others, in behalf 
of her body." ^ There were no gymnasiums for girls in 
those days, no vigorous' outdoor sports, no lithe, swaying 
figures and red cheeks; only samplers and prayer. 
Mrs. Stowe often analyzed these conditions in her char- 
acters, and also analyzed them, with much acuteness, in 
herself. "About half of my time I am scarcely alive, 
and a great part of the rest, the slave and sport of 
morbid feeling and unreasonable prejudice. I have 
everything but good health." ^ 

But do not suppose that she let morbid fancies or 
cringing nerves interfere when there was work to be 
done. That generation had its weaknesses, and some- 
times cultivated them ; but it could trample on them, 
when occasion demanded, and even forget them. Mrs. 
Stowe was an excellent manager, careful of her house- 
hold, careful of her husban3, careful of her children. 
She could be up early and down late, sew, clean, and 
cook, plan and provide. When moving had to be at- 



HARRIET BEECHER STOWE 103 

tended to, she bore the burden. What that means, 
every housekeeper knows. 

She appreciated the importance of order and system in 
a family : " I know that nothing can be done without it ; 
it is the keystone, the sine qua non, and in regard to my 
children I place it next to piety." ^ She gives an amus- 
ing picture of her efforts to apply this principle in estab- 
lishing a new home : furniture men flying about, servants 
calling, assistants suggesting, everything to be done, 
and nobody ready to do it.® Nerves were evidently out 
of place in such a scene as this, and she whipped them 
into submission — could even make fun when, in the 
midst of it, she received from her husband a letter, sat- 
urated with gloom, warning her that he could not live 
long, wondering what she could do as a widow, and 
urging prudence, as she would not have much to live on. 
Prudence ! With big freight-bills to pay and the children 
clamoring for steak to sustain them through their labors ! 

When these whirlwinds of achievement are over, the 
nerves revenge themselves. Nerves usually do. She has 
times of depression so deep that she hardly seems to live : 
" All I wanted was to get home and die. Die I was very 
sure I should, at any rate, but I suppose I was never less 
prepared to do so."^ Again, "I let my plants die by inches 
before my eyes, and do not water them, and I dread 



104 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 

everything I do, and wish it was not to be done." '^ Yet, 
even in these depths, if there is a call from others in 
greater misery, she can respond, sometimes with sooth- 
ing tenderness, sometimes with cheerful rallying. When 
her husband writes to her in utter despair, the sympathy 
of her answer is disguised in gentle mockery. "My 
dear Soul, I received your most melancholy effusion, and 
I am sorry to find it 's just so. I entirely agree and sym- 
pathize. Why did n't you engage the two tombstones — 
one for you and one for me ? " ^ 

This gayety, which she could apply to her own 
troubles, of course made her delightful to others, and 
socially she was popular and much sought after. Like 
most persons of sensitive temperament and nervous 
organization, she at once liked society and shunned it. 
The instinct of avoiding people, of remaining shut up 
within herself, was strong in her, and she had to make 
an effort to overcome it: "I am trying to cultivate a 
general spirit of kindliness towards everybody. Instead 
of shrinking into a corner to notice how other people 
behave, I am holding out my han3 to the right and to the 
left, and forming casual or incidental acquaintances 
with all who will be acquainted with me." ® She culti- 
vates the habit of speaking to disagreeable people, to 
nonentities, and finding the good that can surely be 



HARRIET BEECHER STOWE 105 

found in them. Also, she feels the intense excitement 
of social intercourse, with its consequent fatigue and 
reaction: "I believe it would kill me dead to live long 
in the way I have been doing since I have been here. 
It is a sort of agreeable delirium." ^^ 

In the main she likes people. Instead of saying, with 
Madame de Staal-Delaunay, that she is always glad 
to make new friends because she knows they cannot be 
worse than the old, she declares that she leaves Bruns- 
wick with regret, because she shall never find friends 
whom she likes better than those she has made there. 

And men and women liked her, because she liked 
them. She entered many circles and mingled with all 
sorts of people, and everywhere she was received with 
esteem and affection. She herself speaks of the singu- 
lar charm and fascination of her brother, Henry Ward 
Beecher: "He has something magnetic about him that 
makes everybody crave his society — that makes men 
follow and worship him."^^ The magnetism in her 
case was by no means so marked ; but it was there, and 
very many found it irresistible. 

If she was popular in general society and was liked 
by others because she liked them, much more had she 
a tender and devoted affection in the most intimate re- 
lations of life. "There is a heaven," she says, "a 



io6 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 

heaven — a world of love, and love after all is the life- 
blood, the existence, the all in all of mind." ^^ And in a 
simpler and even more penetrating phrase, she shows 
how thoroughly she had experienced what she estimates 
so highly : " Oh, Mary, we never know how we love till 
we try to unlove." ^^ 

Her devotion to her father and to her brothers and 
sisters was constant and unfailing. Perhaps the nearest 
of them all to her was Henry Ward Beecher, and the 
strength of her love for him appears strikingly in the 
letters written in regard to his greatest trial. She not 
only rejects all possible doubt as to his innocence and 
purity, but rejects it with a whole-hearted 'conviction 
which it is difficult to resist. He is herself, she says, and 
she feels a blow at him more than she would feel it at 
herself. 

Her children she loved and tended an3 cared for, en- 
tering into all the interests of their lives and being pros- 
trated by their illness or death. It certainly could not 
be said of her that she was a writer before she was a 
mother: "My children I would not change for all the 
ease, leisure, and pleasure that I could have without 
them." " Like all persons of deep and sensitive natures, 
she feels the utmost difficulty in expressing affection. 
What are those strange, those insurmountable barriers 



HARRIET BEECHER STOWE 107 

that make it impossible for the tenderness that fills our 
hearts to overflow our lips, so that we meet our dearest 
with a jest, or a quip, or a casual comment, instead of 
the sincere outpouring of passionate devotion? How 
many of us can echo Mrs. Stowe's words : " As for ex- 
pression of affection . . . the stronger the affection, 
the less inclination have I to express it. Yet sometimes 
I think myself the most frank, open, and communica- 
tive of beings, and at other times the most reserved." ^^ 
How many of us, again, resolve, as she did, when a 
friend mourned over not having told a lost child how 
much she loved him, that we will not make the same 
mistake, but will give our feelings full expression, while 
there is yet time? The time passes, till it grows too 
late, and all against our will our lips are sealed. 

The 3epth and the varying phases of Mrs. Stowe's 
love of her husband are naturally not fully seen in her 
published letters. That she did love him, both before 
marriage and after, is evident enough. With the 
writer's instinct of analysis, she makes a curious dis- 
section of her feelings to a friend, half an hour before 
her wedding: "Well, my dear, I have been dreading and 
^reading the time, and lying awake wondering how I 
should live through this overwhelming crisis, and lo ! it 
has come, and I feel nothing at all." ^^ But neither the 



io8 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 

dread nor the indifference indicates any doubt or coldness 
as to Professor Stowe. When she writes of him to others, 
it is with a warm efflorescence of praise. His tenderness 
enwraps her, his enthusiasm upholds her, his confidence 
sustains her. When she writes to him directly, their 
mutual understanding and intimate affection are obvious 
in every line. Amusing stories are told of his occasional 
assertion of being something more than Mrs. Stowe's 
husband; but these never imply any jealousy or undue 
sensitiveness in one who was well qualified to play his 
part in life without being the husband of anybody. 



11 

Like many writers, and some who have been among 
the most successful, Mrs. Stowe was neither a great 
scholar nor a great reader of the writings of others. 
She speaks of her enjoyment in early childhood of the 
poetry of Scott. Later, after looking in dismay at the 
appalling collection of theology in her father's library, 
she was able to divert herself with the odd agglomera- 
tion of fact and fancy in Mather's "Magnalia." As 
her education went on, she of course became familiar 
with the standard books which, as names at any rate, 
are known to intelligent people. She also read curi- 



HARRIET BEECHER STOWE 109 

ously such writings of contemporaries as appealed to 
her quick and eager spirit. But she created her own 
work from what she saw in Hfe, not from what she 
found in books. She had neither the vast zest for 
knowledge as such which is so evident in Margaret Ful- 
ler and Sarah Ripley, nor the enthusiasm for education 
as a moral agent which animated Mary Lyon. Quota- 
tions and literary references are not frequent in her 
letters or in her formal writings. It is the same with 
artistic matters generally. In later years European 
travel trained her to a good deal of interest in pictures 
and architecture. But her temperament was not natu- 
rally aesthetic, nor was it especially susceptible to 
emotional stimulus from painting or music. 

The great activity, the really vital and vivid manifes- 
tation of her spiritual Hfe, was in religion. When she 
was twelve years old, she wrote a composition entitled, 
"Can the Immortality of the Soul be proved by the 
Light of Nature?" It is a truly appalling production 
for a child of that age — not in itself, but when one 
thinks of all it meant in the way of wearing, haunting, 
morbid spiritual discipline and suggestion. 

The young person of to-day cannot realize what these 
religious problems were to the young person of one hun- 
dred years ago. The atmosphere which was breathed 



no PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 

from morning to night was loaded with discussion and 
controversy. Nobody understood this better than Mrs. 
Stowe, or has depicted it more powerfully. " On some 
natures," she says, "theology operates as a subtle 
poison; and the New England theology in particular, 
with its intense clearness, its sharp-cut crystalline edges 
and needles of thought, has had in a peculiar degree the 
power of lacerating the nerves of the soul, and produc- 
ing strange states of morbid horror and repulsion." ^^ 
Elsewhere she puts this influence even more forcibly: 
"With many New England women at this particular 
period, when life was so retired and so cut off from out- 
ward sources of excitement, thinking grew to be a 
disease." ^^ 

If such statements were true in general, even of girls 
who had the ordinary surroundings of this world and 
were not especially bound to the atmosphere of the sanc- 
tuary, they were far more applicable to Mrs. Stowe her- 
self. Her family was essentially Levitical, and the 
quintessence of theological excitement was distilled about 
her dreaming childhood. Her father, Lyman Beecher, 
was a giant of the faith. He was a robust, active, natu- 
rally healthy spirit, a dynamic creature, who used to 
shovel sand from one corner of the cellar to another to 
tone his bodily muscles, and toned the muscles of his 



HARRIET BEECHER STOWE iii 

spirit by shoveling sinners to heaven or to hell. He was 
born too normal to suffer, himself, the extreme agonies 
of a tormented conscience, though his curious " Autobi- 
ography " shows that even the normal had their struggles 
to go through. 

When it came to a sensitive nervous organization like 
his daughter's, the spiritual tumult that he spread around 
him had a far different effect. No doubt she was only 
one of many; but we have the advantage of a keener 
insight into her sufferings than into those of others. No 
doubt there was a certain strange pleasure in the suffer- 
ings themselves, an intense, thrilling appreciation of 
being at any rate alive, such as is quaintly indicated in 
the brief sentence of Anatole France, "It is sweet to 
believe, even in hell." Yet, as we read the story of Mrs. 
Stowe's experiences from our modern point of view, we 
rebel a little, with the feeling that there is enough una- 
voidable misery in the world without adding the dis- 
tresses of the imagination. 

What these distresses were in Mrs. Stowe's case we 
gather from many passages in her letters. That her 
sensitiveness, her response to influences of joy and de- 
pression, to every suggestion from others, was extreme, 
is everywhere evident. " I believe that there never was 
a person more dependent on the good and evil opinions 



112 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 

of those around than I am." ^^ That she took all her 
spiritual experiences with passion, is evident also. 
"Thought, intense emotional thought, has been my 
disease." ^° 

The weight of original sin upon such a temperament, 
the horror of it, with all its fearful consequences, may; 
easily be imagined. An ideal of perfection was before 
her always, and it seemed as if she never attained it, — 
and of course she never did. She could do nothing right. 
Temptations daily beset her and she daily yielded. Back 
of all her sins was pride, fierce, devilishly prompting 
pride, the old, stubborn, willful, unconquerable self. 
She went hourly into battle with it. Sometimes she 
triumphed for a moment; but it rose again, in hydra 
variety, forever. 

All this was forced in upon her soul, beaten in upon 
it. You are irretrievably wicked, said her best friends ; 
there is no escape but one: believe — you must believe. 
So she believed, or said she did, and tried to — tried by 
day and by night to find her way through the complex 
maze of doctrine which believing meant in those days. 
At moments she felt that she had succeeded. Rest came, 
a wide peace settled down upon her ; it seemed that she 
could never again be troubled any more. "My whole 
soul was illumined with joy, and as I left the church 



HARRIET BEECHER STOWE 113 

to walk home, it seemed to me as if Nature herself were 
hushing her breath to > hear the music of heaven." ^^ 
She said to her father, in ecstasy, " Father, I have given 
myself to Jesus, and He has taken me." And her father 
answered, as much rejoiced as she, "Then has a new 
flower blossomed in the kingdom this day." 

But the ecstasies did not endure. Do they ever, did 
they ever, even in the calmest and most saintly heart? 
Doubts come, difficulties, sometimes a flush of rebellion. 
She hears preachers say that we have no plea to offer for 
our sins and no excuse. Have we not? she says. Why 
were we put into the world with the fierce thirst for 
sin and so helpless to resist it? "I have never known 
the time when I have not had a temptation within me 
so strong that it was certain I should not overcome it." ^^ 

Worse than the doubts is the dead feeling of exhaus- 
tion and emptiness that follows enthusiasm. You are in 
heaven for an hour. An hour afterwards you do not 
care whether you are in heaven or in hell. The terrible 
struggle of these experiences has dried her mind and 
withered her soul. "Though young, I have no sym- 
pathy with the feelings of youth." ^^ So her spirit 
flutters in an endless turmoil, exalted and depressed all 
the more because of the quiet and tranquillity of her life 
without. 



114 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 

It is needless to say that she fought through the 
storm, that with the passage of years she retained the 
essence of her faith, at the same time dropping or ob- 
scuring the struggles and terrors of it. The world was 
broadening about her and she broadened fully with it. 
Love came to be the great stronghold of her religion, 
love and hope and sunshine. She grew more and more 
willing to leave the mysteries and the problems to take 
care of themselves. 

Ill 
But whatever religion she had, it was a primary In- 
stinct to preach it. She was not essentially a mystic, 
content to enjoy her spiritual ecstasies in solitude, to 
brood over them without any effort to extend them to 
others. She was born to be active, to be energetic, to 
make the world feel her existence. When she was a 
little child, she heard somebody read the Declaration of 
Independence and it made her " long to do something, I 
knew not what: to fight for my country, or to make 
some declaration on my own account." ^* She was like 
the young college graduate just engaged, who was 
found in tears and explained that she "wanted to do 
something for the world and for Wellesley and for 
him." 



HARRIET BEECHER STOWE 115 

In the New England of those days the desire to do 
something generally meant to communicate one's reli- 
gious experiences. This of course involved making 
others extremely wretched; but as it was to save their 
souls, what did it matter ? Had not one been extremely 
wretched one's self? So many of these quiet, earnest, 
simple women had fought through a passionate spiritual 
struggle to a hardly earned and hardly sustained vic- 
tory! The great impulse of their lives was to fight 
the battle and win the victory for those they loved, 
for an even wider world, for every one. Each new 
battle in a new soul made their own triumphs more 
confirmed and sure. If this was the case with women 
in general, how much more so was it with one who had 
grown up in an atmosphere of preaching and teaching; 
whose father had spent his life wrestling with the devil 
in the pulpit and in the study and had worsted him glori- 
ously; whose brothers had followed the same career 
with like energy and success ! She speaks of one of these 
brothers as "peppering the land with moral influence.""^ 
Was it not certain that, with her temperament and her 
experiences, she would want, in some shape or other, to 
hold the pepper-pot herself? 

She Hid. It must not be understood from this that in 
daily life she was pedantic, or inclined to moralize and 



ii6 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 

sermonize. On the contrary, she was gay and sym- 
pathetic. She had a wide appreciation of human nature, 
a wide comprehension of it ; and this led her to bear with 
others whose point of view was entirely different from 
hers. " Tolerance," she says in one of her books, " tol- 
erance for individual character is about the last Chris- 
tian grace that comes to flower in family or church." ^® 
It had come to flower with her. Men and women 
might differ vastly in beliefs, in standards, even in 
practice, and yet be all lovable. "My dear friend," 
she says, "we must consider other people's natures." ^^ 
Is it possible to give more broadly human as well as more 
broadly Christian advice than that? 

But all the tolerance and comprehension did not mean 
indifference or mere idle study of men's various ways of 
going to ruin. With the sympathy came a passionate 
desire to help, a profound conviction that sympathy 
was the best agent for helping. And as she had a con- 
stant eagerness to make over souls, so she had a 
whirlwind energy in the manner of doing it. She 
tells us of her father's wonderful faculty of exciting 
family enthusiasm. When he had an object to accom- 
plish, he would work the whole household up to a pitch 
of fervent zeal, in which the strength of each one seemed 
quadrupled. She amply inherited the trait, and strove 



HARRIET BEECHER STOWE 117 

with all her nervous force to do good, wherever she 
might be. Even the simple pursuit of her own pleasure 
she was fain to justify by some side-issue of benevo- 
lence. Thus, when she bought a plantation in Florida, 
she urged that she was largely influenced by the wish to 
elevate the people. The plan, she says, " is not in any 
sense a mere worldly enterprise." ^^ 

Very characteristic is the anecdote told by Elizabeth 
Stuart Phelps of the friend in Germany whom Mrs. 
Stowe was anxious to convert from his sceptical phi- 
losophy. First, she argued, pleaded, persuaded by letter, 
some of her letters being even thirty pages long. When 
this epistolary effort failed her, she was obliged to rely 
wholly upon prayer; and at length, at Christmas-time, 
her perseverance was rewarded by the complete conver- 
sion of the reluctant German. ^® 

But with Mrs. Stowe the natural expression for this 
preaching, reforming impulse was literature, just' as 
with Mary Lyon it was teaching. Gautier said that the 
production of copy was a natural function with George 
Sand. Without emphasizing it quite so strongly, it may 
yet be said that the pen was the implement that Mrs. 
Stowe handled most readily and with most pleasure. 
She did not write because she read. She wrote because 
she thought and felt, and writing was to her the sim- 



ii8 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 

plest medium for getting rid of thought and feeling. 
Like many others with a similar gift, she was not frank 
or particularly outspoken in daily converse. It costs 
her an effort to express feeling of any kind, she says. 
Yet when she took her pen, all her inner life flowed out 
readily. Could she have said to any one what she wrote 
of Niagara, for instance? "I felt as if I could have 
gone over with the waters; it would be so beautiful a 
death; there would be no fear in it. I felt the rock 
tremble under me with a sort of joy. I was so maddened 
that I could have gone too, if it had gone."^*^ 

All her life writing excited her, overpowered her. 
She does not do it methodically, systematically, but with 
a frenzy of self-forgetfulness. "My own hook, instead 
of cooling, boils and bubbles daily and nightly." ^^ The 
work overcomes her in the production ; it overcomes her 
afterwards, as if it were the production of some one else. 
When she reads of the death of Uncle Tom, she can 
" scarcely restrain the convulsion of tears and sobbings " 
that shakes her frame. ^^ 

With such a mighty instrument of preaching at hand 
as this, how can she fail to exercise it? It is a most 
interesting study to disentangle the web of motives that 
lies behind her literary achievement. Money? Money 
enters in, of course. Mrs. Stowe liked to earn. She also 



HARRIET BEECHER STOWE 119 

liked to spend and liked to give. Now earning was irregu- 
lar, spending was lamentably regular. She so managed 
that she was never seriously hampered financially; she 
was too prudent and too honorable for that. But the 
pressure of money needs was not strictly favorable to 
the pursuit of literature. Her biographers tell us that 
at times what she pursued was not literature, but the 
necessities of life; and she herself says that when she 
began " Uncle Tom," she was " driven to write by the 
necessity of making some income for family expenses." ^^ 
Yet the passion for writing, for doing something that 
would make the world remember her, went far deeper 
than any need of money. Her sister, in a sharp, brief 
characterization of all the family, says that, as a child, 
"Harriet is just as odd, and loves to be laughed at as 
much as ever."^^ To be laughed at, to be pointed at, 
to be praised — there is the writer surely. Mrs. Stowe 
tells us that, when she first began to read, she was pos- 
sessed with the longing to do something in literature. 
When she was thirteen, she wrote a tragedy. " It filled 
my thoughts sleeping and waking," ^^ till her sister 
forced her to write extracts from Butler's "Analogy," 
instead. All through the production of her lengthy 
series of works it is evident that she was impelled by 
something besides the need of money: that the intense 



I20 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 

ambition to succeed, to get glory, to touch and move and 
thrill the hearts of men, was ever present with her. 

At the same time, she would not have admitted that 
this was her main motive, any more than money. Her 
gifts, if she had any, were given her for a purpose, and 
that was never forgotten. "He has given me talents 
and I will lay them at his feet, well satisfied if He will 
accept them."^^ She writes with her life-blood, she 
says, and " as called of God." In " Uncle Tom " she was 
openly and confessedly doing missionary work. But in 
everything she ever wrote, her desire was the same. She 
was a Beecher. The Beechers were Levites, preachers, 
all of them, — only it fell to her to hold forth from a 
vaster pulpit than any other Beecher ever dreamed of. 
And just as with them, so her utterances were given to 
her from a higher source. She did not write "Uncle 
Tom," she declares. She saw it, she felt it, she heard it 
in prophetic visions. It came to her in a great tide of 
inspiration, the spirit pouring through her as its mere 
humble instrument for the renovation and regeneration 
of the world. 

And as the preaching, missionary instinct was always 
present in her literary ambition, so it was equally present 
in her enjoyment of popularity and success. It is un- 
necessary to say that these came to her in vast measure. 



HARRIET BEECHER STOWE 121 

and she appreciated them. When she was eleven years 
old, her father asked her teacher who wrote a certain 
composition. "Your daughter, sir." ^^ "It was the 
proudest moment o£ my life," she says. But she had 
many proud moments afterwards. The storm of ap- 
plause — and of equally intoxicating obloquy — which 
came to her from "Uncle Tom's Cabin" has not often 
been surpassed in the history of literature. She was 
praised and admired and reviled in America. In Eng- 
land the reviling was less, the praise and admiration 
perhaps even greater. When she visited that country, 
high and low crowded to gaze upon her, to touch her 
hand, to hear her speak. 

Nor was it all vague and impersonal glory which 
flowed about her in the streets but left her alone on an 
isolated pinnacle. What she asked of the world most 
was love. In the full sweep of her success she wrote, 
" It is not fame nor praise that contents me. I seem never 
to have needed love so much as now." ^^ Well, love came 
to her. She made friends everywhere, friends with 
wealth, friends with distinction, friends with titles, who 
took her into their hearts just as nearly as those who had 
grown up with her at home. The warm lining of her 
fame was as rich and lasting as its glittering outside. 

Through it all she was modest, put on no airs or vain 



122 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 

pretenses, did not seem to feel that she had done any- 
thing great, insisted, with apparent sincerity, that the 
work was not her work, nor hers the glory. She moved 
among those curious and applauding crowds, a little, 
quiet, shrinking yet always dignified figure, with a half 
smile of wonder what they were all making such a fuss 
about. " It was enough to frighten a body into fits," says 
her husband of one great occasion. " But we took it as 
quietly as we could, and your mamma looked as meek 
as Moses in her little, battered straw hat and gray cloak, 
seeming to say, ' I did n't come here o' purpose.' " ^^ 

She enjoyed it ; oh, there is no doubt about that. She 
was' eminently human, and few human beings have lived 
who would not have enjoyed it. But through all the 
tumult and hurly-burly there persiste(i' that still, small 
voice telling her that the triumph and the means that 
won it were given her for a purpose. The instinct of 
the missionary and preacher at once excused her joy in 
her success and doubled it. Not hers was it to write 
brilliant and cleverly turned stories for the fleeting en- 
chantment of an hour, but to stir hearts, to win hearts, 
to push on the movement of great causes in a turbid 
world. 

Lowell, writing as editor of the "Atlantic," of which 
she was a pillar in those 3ays, cautioned her to "Let 



HARRIET BEECHER STOWE 123 

your moral take care of itself, and remember that an 
author's writing-desk is something infinitely higher 
than a pulpit." ^° 

To her there was nothing higher than a pulpit, nothing 
could be. " The power of fictitious writing, for good as 
well as evil, is a thing which ought most seriously to be 
reflected on,"^^ she says. She never ceased to reflect 
on it. 

IV 

She reflected on it more than she did on her story, 
her incidents, or her characters. In fact, fortunately, 
these hurried her on without reflection. But plenty 
of the reflection on the power of fictitious writing 
for good and evil always got mixed up with them. 
By temperament she was an interested and an acute 
and exact observer of human nature, both external and 
internal. Her stories, all her stories in greater or less 
degree, are founded on an extensive study of character 
and manners. This is true of her Southern novels, 
and they show that she had made good use of her oppor- 
tunities in collecting material, both consciously and un- 
consciously. It is far more true of her New England 
books; and the fine and varied insight of "The Minis- 
ter's Wooing," "The Pearl of Orr's Island," especially 



124 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 

of "Oldtown Folks," has hardly been surpassed since. 
In this line it must be remembered that Mrs. Stowe was 
an originator, for Hawthorne's work was entirely differ- 
ent in spirit. If Miss Jewett, Mrs. Freeman, and Miss 
Alice Brown have developed some sides more effec- 
tively, Mrs. Stowe deserves credit for having set the 
great example. The shrewdness, the sympathy, with 
which she depicted the New England farmer, and, above 
all, his wife and daughter, are forever commendable 
and delightful. That peculiar thing called the New 
England conscience is especially fascinating to Mrs. 
Stowe, and she is never weary of disentangling its curi- 
ous webs of subtle torment. 

In making all these investigations she sometimes likes 
to think of herself as the artist merely, who portrays 
man's body and soul with scientific ardor and is more 
concerned with truth than with moral efficacy. "I am 
myself but the observer and reporter," she wTites, " see- 
ing much, doubting much, questioning much, and be- 
lieving with all my heart only in a very few things." ^^ 
She does herself infinite injustice. By comparison with 
some of us, she believed in a great many things. Espe- 
cially, she was filled with an overwhelming zeal to con- 
vey to others what beliefs she had. It is here that she 
differs from the notable writers who have succeeded 



HARRIET BEECHER STOWE 125- 

her. They, for the most part, observe and report life 
as it is, from scientific and artistic curiosity. But to 
Mrs. Stowe every heart is a text and every tragedy a 
fearful example. She probably was not aware herself 
how furiously she preached. But no Beecher was ever 
a mere observer, or could have been contented to leave 
New England and the world without making them 
better. 

And as her observation and material were affected by 
her missionary spirit, so her artistic methods were 
affected even more. Everywhere the illustration of 
human truth is a secondary object; the first is to produce 
an effect — naturally, a moral effect. Now, in literature 
the subordination of truth to effect, no matter for what 
purpose, is melodrama. Dumas and the thousands like 
him arrange effective incident merely to amuse, to 
startle and excite the reader; Mrs. Stowe arranges it 
to jolt the reader into the path of virtue. It is not a 
question of violent sensation. Where are there more 
violent sensations than are to be found in Shakespeare ? 
But, as TroUope admirably remarks, there is no objec- 
tion to sensation, no matter how violent, provided it is 
always subordinated to the Hevelopment of character. 
When character is subordinated to sensation, the proper 
name is surely melodrama. It is amusing and profitable 



126 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN " 

to hear Mrs. Stowe herself on this subject. Some one has 
accused her of being moved by melodrama. She is at 
first appalled, though she has no very clear idea what 
is meant. Then she concludes consolingly, "If, by 
being melodramatic, as the terrible word is, he [the 
painter] can shadow forth a grand and comforting reli- 
gious idea . . . who shall say that he may not do so 
because he violates the lines of some old Greek artist? "*^ 
You see the point. 

An entertaining side-issue of this preaching aspect of 
the creator of Uncle Tom is her active part in the Byron 
controversy. I have no wish to stir up a vexed and dis- 
agreeable question; but I do insist that Mrs. Stowe^s 
part in it was based upon the zealous desire to do good, 
however much lack of tact she may have shown. When 
she was a child, she adored Byron, and was deeply over- 
come by the announcement of his death. She heard it 
from her father, who also adored him, — with reserva- 
tions, — and thought that, if Byron "could only have 
talked with Taylor and me, it might have got him out of 
his troubles." ^^ Is n't that delicious ? Later, she became 
intimate with Lady Byron, and, after her death, felt that 
an effort to make clear her relations with her husband 
was a necessary act of justice to the memory of a long 
maligned woman. And what a magnificent theme it was 



HARRIET BEECHER STOWE 127 

for moral edification! Still, you see, the preacher 
Beecher. For it cannot be denied that there hung 
always about Mrs. Stowe that light, vast aura of sancti- 
fication which is, or was, so apt to emanate from the 
New England ministerial being, and which is condensed 
into a supernatural glow upon the countenance, even 
pictured, of her distinguished brother, Henry Ward. 

I do not mean, however, to stress this missionary 
side of Mrs. Stowe with undue emphasis. As I have 
before pointed out, she was a sunny, human person, 
with large understanding of the weaknesses of others 
and large allowance for them. She had an excellent 
portion of humor in her composition, and indeed this 
was as characteristic of her family as was preaching. 
She says of her oldest sister that her " life seemed to be 
a constant stream of mirthfulness ;" *^ and Harriet her- 
self often drifted into broacl eddies of the same golden 
river. From her father she inherited the faculty of 
amusing people as well as that of admonishing them. 
From him also she got a sense of the pleasant things of 
this world, and a sort of eternal youth for enjoying 
them. "Hearts never grow old, do they?" cried the 
Reverend Lyman; and his daughter could have said 
the same. 

One even divines in Mrs. Stowe pagan possibilities 



128 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 

that are really delightful. She reproaches George Eliot 
with too much self-abnegation, and wishes that she could 
get her into the Beecher household, where "we some- 
times make the rafters ring with fun, and say; anything 
and everything, no matter what."^^ She has occa- 
sionally an obscure feeling that something is wrong in 
the preaching attitude; that there are interests in life 
besides being good and the effect to make others so. 
" With all New England's earnestness and practical effi- 
ciency," she writes, " there is a long withering of the 
soul's more ethereal part, — a crushing out of the 
beautiful, — which is horrible. Children are born there 
with a sense of beauty equally delicate with any in the 
world, in whom it dies a lingering death of smothered 
desire and pining, weary starvation. I know, because I 
have felt it." ^^ 

What charms me most in this connection is Mrs. 
Stowe's conversion to Rubens. In all the wide spiritual 
world can you imagine temperaments more different? 
She knew it as well as you do. She begins by hating 
him. Yet even then she feels the power. "Rubens, 
whose pictures I detested with all the energy of my soul, 
I knew and felt all the time, by the very pain he gave me, 
to be a real living artist." ^^ Afterwards, when she sees 
the gorgeous Medici group in Paris, she is almost, if 



HARRIET BEECHER STOWE 129 

not quite, converted. That starved childish spirit v^hich 
hungered for earthly loveliness in the barren New Eng- 
land desert found something to thrill it in the Rubens 
flesh, so splendidly redolent of the glory of this world. 
In fact, if she had been a pagan suckled in a creed out- 
worn, she would have followed it with the same proselyt- 
ing ardor that she gave to Christianity; and the image 
of Mrs. Stowe, a thyrsus in her hand, undraped in a 
dainty, if limited, garment of fawnskin, careering over 
the pastures by the sea, at the head of a Bacchic squad- 
ron of middle-aged New England matrons, does not lack 
a certain piquant, if indecorous, exhilaration. 

But she was to descend to posterity, not as a votaress 
of Bacchus, but as an ardent expositor of the New Eng- 
land conscience. All her books are saturated with it. In 
every one of them nature and human nature, passion and 
hope, good and ill, are used to illustrate the goodness of 
God, the importance of virtue, the absolute necessity of 
making over the world on the New England model. 
Perhaps "Uncle Tom's Cabin" is no better than some 
of the others ; but it has the characteristics of all of them, 
and a fortunate conjunction of circumstances gave it an 
enormous success which none of the others could have 
achieved. Read everywhere in America and Europe, 
translated into all languages, a mighty instrument in 



130 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 

the extinction of slavery, it was far more than a 
novel, it was one of the greatest moral agencies the 
world has seen; and Mrs. Stowe will be simply the author 
of it to millions who know, and care to know, nothing 
else about her. Few teachers or preachers anywhere can 
ever hope to accomplish such results as she did. 

Undeniably, with Mrs. Stowe, as with others of her 
type, there are times when one wearies intensely of this 
missionary endeavor. After all, the sky is blue, the 
w^nds blow, and life is pleasant. Why not let it go at 
that? Yet, when the hours and days of anguish come, 
— for the individual or for the world, — as they are 
coming now, we realize that perhaps we need these little, 
fragile, insinuating, indomitable things with curls to 
drive or wheedle us into the fold of God. 



MARGARET FULLER OSSOLI 



CHRONOLOGY 

Sarah Margaret Fuller 

Born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, May 23, 1810. 

Grew up in Cambridge and Groton. 

Taught and talked in Boston and elsewhere, 1837-1844. 

Edited the " Dial," 1840-1842. 

Literary Life in New York, 1844-1846. 

In Europe, 1846-1850. 

Married the Marquis Ossoli, December, 1847. 

Drowned off Fire Island, July 19, 1850. 



-&> / V 





MARGARET FULLER OSSOLI 



V 
MARGARET FULLER OSSOLI 

I 

Sarah Margaret Fuller brought the thrill of life 
wherever she went, though she was often only half alive 
herself. As a child, from 1820 to 1830, she stirred her 
Cambridge playmates. As a teacher and talker she 
stirred the transcendental circles of Boston. As a writer 
in New York she moved men and women with her soul 
more than with her pen. She went to Italy in the forties 
and the Italians loved her, and one of them made her 
a marchioness and a mother. Then the stormy sea 
engulfed her, as it did Shelley. 

Mrs. Cheney, writing in 1902, fifty years after Mar- 
garet's death, says : " She is the woman of America who 
is moulding the lives and the characters of her country- 
women more than any other. It is for her that in the 
new West, which she was among the first to understand, 
the women's clubs are named, and both in the East and 
West audiences gladly listen to all that can be told of 
her." ^ I wonder if this is as true to-day as it was then. 

The best way to understand Margaret will be to ana- 



134 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 

lyze her in three distinct phases, to unfold, as if were, 
one wrapping after another, until we reach the essential 
secret of her heart. And first we should see her in that 
social contact with others which, at any rate in the 
earlier part of her life, was her ambition and her despair. 
No one has striven harder than she to accomplish in hu- 
man relations what those who strive hardest recognize 
most clearly in the end to be impossible. 

As a woman, if we are to consider her socially, we 
must begin by thinking of her appearance. She had a 
passionate longing to be beautiful ; but apparently no one 
thought her so. She was rather short, rather heavy, 
had a lofty but not attractive carriage, opened and shut 
her eyes oddly, poised her head oddly. Emerson says 
that she "made a disagreeable first impression on most 
persons . . . to such an extreme that they did not wish 
to be in the same room with her."^ She grew aware of 
this with time, though perhaps she did not wholly un- 
'derstand the causes. I " made up my mind," she says, 
" to be bright and ugly." ^ 

She was bright enough, but there was too much mak- 
ing up the mind about it, and it did not please strangers, 
— nor even, in the early days, people who knew her well. 
[A tradition of intense dislike still surrounds her name 
for many who can never get over it. Horace Mann, 



MARGARET FULLER OSSOLI 135 

suggesting a popular impression about her family, said 
that " she had the disagreeableness of forty Fullers," ^ 
and certainly at times she did appear to concentrate a 
large dose of the unattractive. "To the multitude she 
was a haughty and supercilious person," ^ says one who 
admired and loved her. However much she may have 
prized attention and applause, she would not stoop for 
them. It is doubtful whether the records of history 
show a woman who began life by declaring, to herself 
and others, a larger and more sweeping sense of her 
own power and importance. Her mighty and four- 
square egotism teased the shy and self-distrustful Haw- 
thorne till he had immortalized it in the Zenobia of the 
"Blithedale Romance." It disconcerted the sfrave Emer- 
son. It annoyed Lowell, — "A very foolish, conceited 
woman." ^ It amused Horace Greeley, who was not 
without his own fair share of the same quality. The 
pleasant interplay of the two egotisms together is de- 
lightfully illustrated in Margaret's comment on Horace : 
"His abilities, in his own way, are great. He believes 
in mine to a surprising extent. We are true friends." ''' 
But nothing can equal Margaret's own words about 
herself. "There are also in every age a few in whose 
lot the meaning of that age is concentrated. I feel that 
I am one of those persons in my age and sex. I feel 



136 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 

chosen among women." ^ And again, " I now know all 
the people worth knowing in America, and I find no in- 
tellect comparable to my own."^ She was fully de- 
veloped and mature when she said this, and I do not 
know where you can surpass it. With all her brilliancy 
and all her wit, perhaps she lacked the sense of humor 
that might have saved her from the worst excesses of 
egotism. 

To be sure, more think these things than say them, 
and we must accredit Margaret with a royal candor 
which is not without charm. She said what she thought 
about herself, and she said what she thought about others 
right to their faces. Those who were large enough 
came to appreciate the spirit in which she did it. But 
many were not large enough, and her best friends admit 
that she combined candor with a singular and unfortu- 
nate tactlessness. 

It must not be supposed, however, that Margaret 
nursed, or wished to nurse, her self-esteem in private. 
I have said that she sought society. She did, and with 
the wish to dominate and control it, to be the leader, 
if anything at all. In this respect, as in some others, 
she recalls Lady Holland, who for so many years main- 
tained a salon by sheer force of will. Margaret "had 
an immense appetite for social intercourse,"^^ says one 



MARGARET FULLER OSSOLI 137 

who knew her intimately, and she threw herself into 
this, as into everything, with the furious ardor which 
she herself understood so well. "There is no modesty 
or moderation in me."^^ Wherever she came, she 
wished to lead, and to dominate whomsoever she met. 
Yield to her, and she would love you — if she thought 
you worth while. Resist her, and you became an object 
of interest, whether she thought you worth while or 
not. Emerson says : " When a person was overwhelmed 
by her, and answered not a word except 'Margaret, 
be merciful to me, a sinner,' then her love and tender- 
ness would come like a seraph's." ^^ 

The means she used to ensnare and captivate were 
as varied as they were startling. She would adapt 
herself to every one, be all things to all men and women, 
if the fancy seized her. Persuasion was just as much 
at her command as force. Her powers of imitation and 
mimicry were unlimited. "Had she condescended to 
appear before the footlights, she would soon have been 
recognized as the first actress of the Nineteenth Cen- 
tury," ^^ says Greeley. We have often heard before of 
ladies who would have been, if they had condescended. 
Nevertheless, the tribute is important for the study of 
Margaret. Read, also, her own autobiographical story, 
"Mariana," with its extraordinary account of her at- 



138 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 

tempts as a child at boarding-school to control and 
dominate her fellow pupils, the arts and wiles and de- 
ceptions she cunningly practiced only to overthrow her 
influence in the end by her impatient haughtiness and 
eccentricity. She had, she says of herself, "the same 
power of excitement that is described in the spinning 
dervishes of the East. Like them she would spin until 
all around her were giddy, while her own brain, instead 
of being disturbed, was excited to great action." ^^ 
Read, also, Emerson's description of the means she used 
to overcome his original prejudice: "She studied my 
tastes, piqued and amused me, challenged frankness by 
frankness, and did not conceal the good opinion of me 
she brought with her, nor her wish to please. She was 
curious to know my opinions and experiences. Of 
course, it was impossible long to hold out against such 
urgent assault." ^^ 

So others found it besides Emerson. For it must be 
recognized that this singular creature, who had such 
a power of making enemies and arousing distaste, had 
also such immense mental and spiritual resources that 
her talk was admired and her society sought by the 
wisest and the wittiest persons who came" near her. To 
begin with, she had a belief in' conversation, its delights 
and possibilities, which seems pathetic to those who 



MARGARET FULLER OSSOLI 139 

have pursued the ideal of it through an Odyssey of 
failure. She loved to talk, to make others talk, even 
to try to make others talk. It must be confessed that, 
by universal testimony, she had an extraordinary power 
of stimulation, of taking what seemed to be dull clods 
and making hearts of them. Madame Arconati wrote 
Emerson that she had known no woman with a mind 
'plus vivifiant}^ The word seems final. Her soul 
touched others and made them live. 

All records of these wonderful talkers, all attempts 
to transmit them to posterity, are more or less unsuc- 
cessful. But Margaret has been fortunate in her in- 
terpreters. They rarely note her words, but, wisely, the 
impression she made upon them. And it is easy to 
gather what her power of adaptation was in different 
surroundings. For instance, Horace Greeley found her 
serious, in the main. "She could be joyous and even 
merry; but her usual manner, while with us, was one 
of grave thoughtfulness, absorption in noble deeds, and 
in paramount aspirations."^'' How different is Emer- 
son's picture! He does not, indeed, deny the gravity. 
She could and would talk with ravishing earnestness, and 
with a frankness, as from man to man, which no man 
could excel. But what sudden and surprising changes 
from gravity to mirth, what echoing gayety, what swift 



I40 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 

and stinging satire, what instant gift of adjustment to 
the call of circumstance! "She sympathizes so fast 
with all forms of life, that she talks never narrowly or 
hostilely, nor betrays, like all the rest, under a thin 
garb of new words, the old droning cast-iron opinions 
or notions of many years' standing." ^^ And the same 
excellent judge sums up her talk as "the most enter- 
taining conversation in America." ^^ Again, he says of 
her power over those she met: "Of personal influence, 
speaking strictly, — an efflux, that is, purely of mind 
and character, excluding all effects of power, wealth, 
fashion, beauty, or literary fame — she had an extraor-; 
dinary degree; I think more than any person I have 
known." ^° That this could be said of one who had the 
exceptional elements of repulsion noted in the begin- 
ning of this portrait shows that we are dealing with a; 
soul of unusual and fascinating interest. 

Nor was Margaret's power over the hearts of others 
merely an external, temporary, and social one. She 
could not only startle and stimulate; where she chose, 
she could inspire profound and lasting attachment. " I 
at least," says Colonel Higginson, "have never known 
any woman who left behind an affection so deep and 
strong. It is now thirty years since her death, and 
there is scarcely a friend of hers who does not speak 



MARGARET FULLER OSSOLI 141 

of her with as warm a devotion as if she had died yes- 
terday." ^^ During a part of her life Margaret was a 
teacher. She taught in various schools and in different 
places. Under her teaching should also be included her 
curious attempt to combine the methods of Greek acad- 
emies and French salons in the public assemblies, held 
in Boston, which she called conversations. It would be 
easy to cite abundant ridicule of these latter perform- 
ances. Miss Martineau and many others found them 
terribly pedantic, and the element of pedantry was not 
lacking in them. Yet it is incontestable that those who 
came most under Margaret's influence, either in this 
way or in her more formal teaching, found an inspira- 
tion that lasted them for life. Her own comment on 
her gifts hits us like a cold-water douche: "My great 
talent at explanation, tact in the use of means, and im- 
mediate and invariable power over the minds of my 
pupils." ^^ But when one of the pupils says the same 
thing, we cannot but accept it: "I had no idea that I 
should esteem and, much more, love her. I found my- 
self in a new world of thought; a flood of light irradi- 
ated all that I had seen in nature, observed in life, or 
read in books." ^^ 

And all this adoration was not dumb, remote, or 
incapable of personal transference. What strikes one 



142 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 

most of all in Margaret's relation to her fellows is her 
unusual faculty of eliciting confession from the most 
varying sources. One does not commonly expect this 
in persons of such pronounced and self-assertive tem- 
perament. But it cannot be denied in her. Emerson 
was immensely impressed by it : " She drew her com- 
panions to surprising confessions." ^^ Another observer, 
who had himself a similar experience, regards it as phe- 
nomenal : " I judge that she was the repository of more 
confidences than any contemporary," he says. " Women 
who had known her but a day revealed to her the most 
jealously guarded secrets of their lives. . . . Nor were 
these revelations made only by those of her own plane 
of life, but chambermaids and seamstresses unburdened 
their souls to her, seeking and receiving her counsel; 
while children found her a delightful playmate and a 
capital friend." ^^ 

Various elements enter into the explanation of this 
gift of Margaret's of drawing out others' souls. As to 
one of these elements all observers unite: she never 
betrayed a confidence that had been placed in her. But 
there was far more to it than that, — she entered into 
the lives and hearts of others with the widest imagina- 
tive comprehension. She does, indeed, in a moment of 
discouragement, deny herself sympathy: "a person all 



MARGARET FULLER OSSOLI 143 

Intellect and passion, no loveliness of character ; impetu- 
ous, without tender sympathy." ^^ But even as to emo- 
tional sympathy she belied herself. And her power of 
understanding souls of all colors and complexions, of 
entering into quick passion and aspiration as well as 
slow despair, was almost unlimited. Under the surface 
that seemed dull and dead to others she saw the glow- 
ing spark and her breath kindled it into vital fire. She 
made lives over. Especially she was "the interpreter 
and savior of women," says Mrs. Cheney, "for there 
was no questioning, no suffering, that had not passed 
through the alembic of her imagination and thought, 
if not of her actual experience. . . . The largeness of 
her life and thoughts made her a great helper." ^^ 



II 

With this largeness of life and thought we may pass 
from Margaret's social and external relations with 
others to the inner activity of her intelligence. It may 
be said at once that hers was not above all a logically 
creative mind. She thought out no speculative systems, 
nor even gave herself with slow industry to criticizing 
the systems of others. But her Intellect was keen, vivid. 
Illuminating, — dashed right into the heart of a subject 



144 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 

or of a person, plucked out the essential nucleus for 
herself and others to behold, and then passed on. She 
hated prejudice and convention, wanted the primal ele- 
ments of things, even things distressing and hateful. 
"With her," she said of a friend, "1 can talk of any- 
thing. She is like me. She is able to look facts in the 
face."^^ And again, with bitter ardor: "In the cham- 
ber of death, I prayed in very early years, ^Give me 
truth ; cheat me by no illusion.' " ^^ She had a splendid 
analytical power, which shows more in brief touches 
from casual writings than in her formal works. Thus, 
of a conversation with Emerson : " He is a much better 
companion than formerly, — for once he would talk 
obstinately through the walk, but now we can be silent 
and see things together." ^*^ Or more generally: "We 
need to hear the excuses men make to themselves for 
their worthlessness."^^ 

As is natural and unavoidable, with a person who has 
this gift of analysis, she applied it first of all and con- 
stantly to herself. True, she felt that she accomplished 
little and got nowhere, and this recognition is the surest 
mark of her power. "I know little about the mystery 
of life, and far less in myself than in others." ^^ Yet 
she probed and probed, with inexhaustible, quiet, curious 
diligence, and she is not one of the least profitable of 



MARGARET FULLER OSSOLI 145 

the anatomizers of soul. Hear her on the near ap- 
proach of death. "On this subject I always feel that 
I can speak with some certainty, having been on the 
verge of bodily dissolution. I felt at that time disen- 
gaged from the body, hovering, and calm."^^ Again 
and again she speaks of herself with quiet detachment, 
judging her own character and conduct, good and evil, 
exactly as if she were appraising somebody else. One 
who had long known her family says that they were 
peculiar in speaking out openly all the things which we 
commonly suppress about ourselves and express only 
about other people. This was certainly true of Mar- 
garet. For instance, when she writes to her brother, 
urging him to make sacrifices for the younger children, 
she points out all that she had given up for him. "I 
do not say this to pain you, or to make you more grate- 
ful to me (for, probably, if I had been aware at the 
time what I was doing, I might not have sacrificed 
myself so)."^* 

As I have suggested earlier, it is to this exceptional 
instinct of analysis and calm-eyed candor that we are 
to attribute largely those violent expressions of egotism 
which are so astonishing. When Margaret sighs, " Oh 
that my friends would teach me that * simple art of not 
too much ! ' How can I expect them to bear the cease- 



146 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 

less eloquence of my nature ?"^^ she is really sighing 
and not posing at all. Indeed, with the perfectly candid 
recognition of her powers, she combined often a yearn- 
ing humility, a deep desire to correct herself of many 
faults. How charming is the comment, in her earlier 
love letters, on a friend who was inclined to criticize 
her weaknesses — or excess of strength: "I think, too, 
with one whose judgment I valued, I should receive 
fault-finding in the spirit in which it was meant, and 
if it gave me pain, should be more likely to mend than 
many who take it more easily." ^^ While perhaps some- 
thing even nobler and larger than humility permeates 
the royal sentence, so often quoted but not too often, 
" I feel as if there was plenty of room in the universe 
for my faults, and as if I could not spend time in think- 
ing of them, when so many things interest me more." ^"^ 
It is in connection with the profound study of her 
own nature as well as of the nature of others that we 
should consider her interesting and elaborate theories 
of self -development, self-culture, constant spiritual 
progress. In this she was no doubt greatly influenced 
by Goethe, who was more of a force in her mental life 
than any other figure of the past. It is easy to make 
fun of such deliberate preoccupation with one's self, and 
most of us will maintain that action rather than reflec- 



MARGARET FULLER OSSOLI 147 

tionis the true means of self-development. The greater 
part of Hawthorne's savage and absurdly exaggerated 
attack on Margaret is based upon a ludicrous over- 
estimate of her attempts to revolutionize herself. "It 
was such an awful joke, that she should have re- 
solved — in all sincerity, no doubt — to make herself the 
greatest, wisest, best woman of the age. And to that 
end she set to work on her strong, heavy, unpliable, 
and, in many respects, defective and evil nature, and 
adorned it with a mosaic of admirable qualities, such 
as she chose to possess ; putting in here a splendid talent 
and there a moral excellence, and polishing each sepa- 
rate piece, and the whole together, till it seemed to shine 
afar and dazzle all who saw it. She took credit to her- 
self for having been her own Redeemer, if not her own 
Creator." ^« 

No one who has carefully studied Margaret's own 
letters or other writings, or the testimony of those who 
knew her best, will for a moment accept seriously either 
these or any other of Hawthorne's severe strictures 
for more than an outburst of ill-temper. No two char- 
acters could have been more different than Hawthorne's 
and Margaret's, or, if they had some points of resem- 
blance, they would have clashed on those resemblances 
more than on their differences. As to the self-culture, 



148 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 

, too elaborate theories in this line have again and again 
defeated themselves in their most intelligent and con- 
scientious exponents. Margaret came to see this in the 
end. Yet it cannot be denied that no effort was ever 
more conscientious than hers. Nor can it be denied 
that the effort was intelligently controlled and that it 
effected probably as much as has ever been effected by 
any human being. The constitutional disagreeableness 
which I have suggested in beginning this study dimin- 
ished constantly with the progress of years. The nar- 
rowness of egotism, largely fostered in youth by seclu- 
sion and excessive reading, yielded more and more to 
the mellowing influences of wider contact with human- 
ity. In her own noble phrase, she "unlearned con- 
tempt " ; ^® and what positive learning can be finer or 
more difficult than that ? While both positive and nega- 
tive advancement are summed up in the earnest motto 
which she adopted in her youth and clung to always, 
however differently she may have come to interpret it: 
" Very early I knew that the only object in life was to 
grow." ^° 

It is hardly necessary to say that Margaret's theories 
of culture included much more than mere book-learning. 
Yet her achievements in this line were remarkable. Or 
perhaps I should say that her powers were even more 



MARGARET FULLER OSSOLI 149 

remarkable than her achievements. She herself, in a 
moment of unusual discouragement, declares: "I have 
long thought my mind must be as shallow as it is 
vapid." ^^ But it v^as certainly neither vapid nor shal- 
low. A good judge, who' knew her well, speaks of " the 
rapidity with which she appropriates all knowledge, 
joined with habits of severe mental discipline (so rare 
in women, and in literary men not technically 'men of 
science')."*^ She could grasp the meaning of a book 
swiftly, fit it to its place in the great scheme of thought 
and spiritual movement, then hasten to something else, 
perhaps quite different, and accomplish the same result 
with equal ease and equal sureness. 

Her actual possession of learning was far less than 
Mrs. Ripley's. She had a less broad and exact com- 
mand of languages; she took little interest in science, 
and even in philosophy she could not be called an ex- 
haustive student. To her, — and more and more as she 
grew older, — books were but the interpreters of life, 
and her keenest and most thoughtful study was given to 
the hearts of men. 

But the most interesting thing about her studies, as 
about all her pursuits, is the passion with which she 
threw herself into them. Her intellectual effort was 
not a calm and steady flame, like Mrs. Ripley's, burn- 



I50 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 

ing unaltered and unshaken through all sorts of disturb- 
ance and difficulty. She could not turn quietly and 
serenely from astronomy to botany, from German to 
mathematics, as convenience suggested and opportunity 
offered. There were moments of spiritual exaltation 
and enthusiasm. " I am living like an angel, and I don't 
know how to get down." ^^ But these times were paid 
for in exhaustion and depression and disgust. " I never 
can do well more than one thing at a time, and the least 
thing costs me so much thought and feeling; others 
have no idea of it." ■** Above all, she lived in perpetual 
distraction. A thousand cares were ever crowding upon 
her, and when it was not external cares, it was spiritual 
vexations and questions and perplexities. "I have 
learned much and thought little," she complains, "an 
assertion which seems paradoxical and is true. I faint 
with desire to think . . . but some outward requisition 
is ever knocking at the door of my mind and I am as 
ill placed as regards a chance to think as a haberdasher's 
prentice or the President of Harvard University."*^ So 
she struggled onward in a constant turmoil of effort 
and aspiration, and if her mental kingdom was in some 
respects ill-coordinated and ill-regulated, at least she 
was always mentally alive. 

Alive, too, in other aspects of spiritual sensibility, 



MARGARET FULLER OSSOLI 151 

besides the merely intellectual. In painting and music, 
as in thought, what strikes one is rather the effort and 
passion of her appreciation than its amplitude and se- 
curity. She touched the great artists widely and sought 
and fought to make their achievement part of her soul, 
but she never seems to have entered quite fully into 
their calm perfection. The same is true of religion. It 
is interesting and often pathetic to see her humble, earn- 
est desire for the passion of the mystic and the Chris- 
tian hope. "My mind often burns with thoughts on 
these subjects and I long to pour out my soul to some 
person of superior calmness and strength and fortunate 
in more accurate knowledge. I should feel such a quiet- 
ing reaction. But generally I think it is best I should 
go through these conflicts alone." ^^ She went through 
many of them and they resulted in the formulation of the 
curious "Credo," — not printed until very recently, — 
which aims at an exactness of definition such as neither 
Emerson nor Goethe would ever have attempted. Doc- 
trinally it has little interest. As throwing psychological 
light on Margaret it has much, for example in the 
splendid and characteristic phrase: "For myself, I be- 
lieve in Christ because I can do without him."*'^ 

But the charm of Margaret's sensibility and depth of 
spiritual emotion shows much better in simpler things 



152 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 

than in these more pretentious regions of art and 
thought. She felt the natural world with peculiar so- 
lemnity and intensity. This is evident in her own curi- 
ous account of the experience of being lost alone for 
a whole night amid the Highland mountains. It is 
much more evident in briefer references to New Eng- 
land woods and flowers and fields. You could not find 
a better antidote to Hawthorne's harsh judgment than 
this delicate picture of open-air life: "Many, many 
sweet little things would I tell you, only they are so 
very little. I feel just now as if I could live and die 
here. I am out in the open air all the time except about 
two hours in the early morning. And now the moon 
is fairly gone late in the evening. While she was here, 
we staid out, too. Everything seems sweet here, so 
homely, so kindly ; the old people chatting so contentedly, 
the young men and girls laughing together in the fields 
— not vulgarly, but in the true kinsfolk way, — little 
children singing in the house and beneath the berry- 
bushes."^^ Or take another in which the sense of 
natural beauty rises into passion: "One night when I 
was out bathing at the foot of the tall rock, the waters 
rippling up so gently, the ships gliding full-sailed and 
dreamy-white over a silver sea, the crags above me with 
their dewy garlands and the little path stealing awa^ 



MARGARET FULLER OSSOLI 153 

in shadow, oh, it was almost too beautiful to bear and 
live."'^ 

When one reads these things, one wonders why Mar- 
garet did not leave a greater name in actual literature, 
why her very numerous writings are not more read 
to-day. This is partly owing, no doubt, to the ephem- 
eral nature of her subjects, — travel pictures, controver- 
sial essays, criticisms of authors who have not lived 
themselves. Even in these buried articles there is much 
shrewd observation that deserves better than to be for- 
gotten. Still, it must be admitted that her formal, 
printed works do not do her justice. She was better 
than any of them, and she knew it. She would have 
liked literary glory and success, none more so. But 
she had a proud assurance that there was something 
finer in her than had ever come out. She would not, 
indeed, have used of herself, nor would we quite have 
her use, her own words as to a minor writer: "What 
he does is bad, but full of a great desire." ^^ But she 
does say, as pathetically as justly: "I feel within my- 
self an immense power, but I cannot bring it out."^* 
And even better is the noble prophecy which we still 
believe that the future will maintain: "My health is 
frail; my earthly life is shrunk to a scanty rill; I am 
little better than an aspiration, which the ages will re- 



154 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 

ward, by empowering me to incessant acts of vigorous 
beauty." ^^ It was as such an inspiration that she es- 
tabHshed her conspicuous place among the writers for 
the ''Dial" and the group of transcendentahsts who 
made New England famous in the middle of the nine- 
teenth century. 

Ill 

We have yet to uncover Margaret's heart, to pass deeper 
from her social and worldly aspect and her intellectual 
and literary interests to the passion and the struggle 
of the woman. 

To begin with, she was a lover, always a lover, even 
from her childhood. In her own family, her father, 
stern like herself with Puritan self-restraint, though he 
was proud of her and taught her and developed her, did 
not give her all the tenderness she needed. How much 
she needed it appears in the passionate words she wrote 
long after his death : " I recollect how deep the anguish, 
how deeper still the want, with which I walked alone 
in hours of childish passion and called for a Father, 
after saying the word a hundred times." ^^ The same 
depth of tenderness she gave in full measure to her 
brothers and sisters. 

And the tenderness was not mere sentiment but 



MARGARET FULLER OSSOLI 155 

showed in practical action. Mr. Fuller's death left his 
family much cramped financially, and Margaret was 
forced to deny herself, and did deny herself without 
hesitation, the spiritual opportunities she so much craved 
that her brothers and sisters might have proper educa- 
tion and advantages. "Let me now try to forget my- 
self and act for others' sakes,"^^ she wrote, and she 
acted as she wrote. She taught the younger children; 
she did the mending and the cooking; she took care of 
her mother, who was often ill, and of her grandmother, 
who was so always. 

She was not only a zealous manager, but a prudent 
and intelligent one. She understood extremely well the 
value of money, knew how to husband it, and how to 
spend it so as to make it go farthest and buy most. 
She supplied her brothers with caution, yet with wide 
liberality, considering her limitations. Above all, she 
stinted herself that she might give, not only in her 
family but far without. "Her charities, according to 
her means, were larger than those of any other whom I 
ever knew," ^^ writes one who had much experience of 
Margaret — and of others. Even the bitter words 
wrung from her in the anguish of the last miserable 
years show only what her generosity had been and what 
we are sure it was still. "My love for others had 



156 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 

turned against me. I had given to other sufferers what 
I now needed for myself so deeply, so terribly; I shall 
never again be perfectly, be religiously generous; I 
understand why others are not. I am worse than 
Iwas."^^ 

And her human tenderness extended far beyond her 
own family. We have seen that she wanted to be ad- 
mired and praised and worshiped. She wanted to be 
loved, also, and perhaps this was really at the root of 
the less commendable instinct. Amidst all the popu- 
larity and social compliment she keenly appreciated wha'E 
affection was, — just common affection. "Around my 
path how much humble love has flowed. These every- 
day friends never forget my heart, never censure me, 
make no demands on me, load me with gifts and serv- 
ices, and, uncomplaining, see me prefer my intellectual 
kindred."^'' She wanted to give love, too, as well as 
get it. She knew well at all times of her life that 
aching emptiness which only an overpowering devotion 
can fill. Do we not get a glimpse of it in the quiet 
words describing one contact with youth and beauty? 
" She was a lovely child then, and happy, but my heart 
ached, and I lived in just the way I do now." ^^ 

Nothing throws more light on this human craving 
than Margaret's relation with the good Emerson. They 



MARGARET FULLER OSSOLI 157 

sought and admired each other and got and gave much. 
But Emerson, who so abounded in kindness, was per- 
haps somewhat Hmited in the blind longings of the heart. 
He speaks of "the romantic sacrifice and ecstatic 
fusion "^^ of Margaret's friendships, with a humorous 
acceptance of incomprehension. Margaret herself com- 
plains of his coldness, of his incapacity for the highest 
surrender. "He met men, not as a brother, but as a 
critic." ^^ And it would be amusing, if it were not 
pathetic, to see her dissatisfaction reflected in Emer- 
son's account of it. She called his friendship commer- 
cial, he says, felt that he could not prize affection unless 
it chattered, weighed love by what he got from it only. 
He quotes her very words : " The deepest love that ap- 
proached you was, in your eyes, nothing but a magic 
lantern, always bringing out pretty shows of life."^^ 
Some of us to-day feel too keenly what Margaret meant. 
But, all the same, how noble and beautiful is the humil- 
ity of Emerson's comment: "As I did not understand 
the discontent then, — of course, I cannot now." ^^ 

The question naturally arises, how about love with 
Margaret in the ordinary sense, how about her relations 
with men who were not simply friend's and philosophers ? 
In her earlier years there is no definite trace of any- 
thing of the sort. She had few of the attractions which 



158 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 

draw young men and none of the coquetry which seeks 
to draw them. Her youthful letters and reminiscences 
do not indicate any affection, requited or unrequited. 
Then, in 1844, when she was well over thirty, she fell 
in with a brilliant member of the Jewish race, and for 
a year she kept up a correspondence with him, which 
has been printed by Mrs. Howe, and which shows Mar- 
garet as deeply and sentimentally in love as any school- 
girl. 

It is true that the old egotism still hangs about her. 
Her dear companion is the first she " ever had who could 
feel every little shade of life and beauty as exquisitely 
as myself."®^ But she relishes even the shock to ego- 
tism which comes with the self-abandonment of this 
new tenderness. She finds a strange thrill of pleasure 
in the lover's admonition, "You must be a fool, little 
girl."^^ She indulges in all the fantastic freaks of 
amorous imagination, the ardor for an impossible union, 
the frantic questionings, the idle self-tormentings, — not 
one of the old, well-known symptoms is missing. And 
to complete all, she assumes, as usual, that they are first 
known to her. As the gay French comedy puts it. En 
voila encore une qui croit avoir invent e I' amour. 

Yet even these love-letters, earnest as they are, genu- 
ine as they are, and most important in the light they 



MARGARET FULLER OSSOLI 159 

throw upon Margaret's character, are not wholly free 
from a suggestion of literature. When the infatuation 
is over, her characteristic comment is: ''I shall write 
a sketch of it and turn the whole to account in a lit- 
erary way, since the affections and ideal hopes are so 
unproductive." ^^ There had been more head than heart 
in the matter, and to touch the deepest secrets of her 
nature required a different temperament from that of 
the brilliant Jew. After a few months' sojourn in Italy, 
she found such a temperament, certainly very different, 
in the Marquis Ossoli, whom she married secretly at 
the close of the year 1847. Judgments about Ossoli are 
somewhat varying. The utter brutality of a comment 
recorded by Hawthorne defeats itself and suggests some 
obscure ground of prejudice. According to this view 
the marquis had no claim even to good-breeding, let 
alone intelligence, " in short, half an idiot, and without 
any pretension to be a gentleman," ^® and Margaret mar- 
ried him simply from curiosity and weariness. Such 
an extreme statement cannot stand a moment against 
other evidence. It is clear that Margaret's husband was 
not literary or a scholar. She had doubtless seen quite 
enough of that sort of gentry in her varied career. But 
there is no doubt that he was a high-minded, dignified 
gentleman, and that he was devoted to her with an at- 



i6o PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 

tachment which, coming from a temperament like his, is 
in itself strong testimony to the nobleness of her char- 
acter. As for the ever-increasing depth of her regard 
for him, it is apparent whenever she mentions his name. 
She was nearly forty years old ; she had been through a 
wide variety of emotional experiences; she knew the hu- 
man heart, and here she had found one whose grave 
earnestness and loyal affection could be counted upon 
in every trial. " Simple, true, delicate, and retiring," 
she calls him, in well-weighed w^ords, and adds, " while 
some of my friends have thought me exacting, Ossoli 
has outgone my expectations in the disinterestedness, 
the uncompromising bounty, of his every action." ^'^ 

Then she became a mother, and yet one more pro- 
found chamber of her heart was opened. She had al- 
ways loved children and had had a peculiar power of 
drawing their confidence, as that of their elders. She 
longed for motherhood, "my heart was too suffocated 
without a child of my own."^^ Yet she longed with 
an unusual and beautiful humility: "I am too rough 
and blurred an image of the Creator, to become a be- 
stower of life." ^^ When her son was born, she seemed 
almost to forget her existence in his. Her brain was 
all plans for rearing and guiding and helping him. His 
illness shakes her faith more than anything else had ever 



MARGARET FULLER OSSOLI i6i 

done before. His health and gayety make her gay when 
all is troubled around her. 

For these strange, new experiences had come to her 
in a troubled world. Her husband was thickly con- 
cerned in the Italian revolution, and she herself gave 
all her natural ardor to the coming of a new era in the 
country she had loved and known so well. As battles 
were fought and men were wounded and suffering, she 
visited the hospitals, comforted the dying, cheered and 
tended the long and solitary hours of recover}^ "A 
mild saint and ministering angel: that seems to have 
been the impression made by her at Rome upon those 
who knew her well," "^^ writes one friend. She shrinks 
at first: "I had no idea before, how terrible gunshot- 
wounds' and wound-fever are " ; ''^ but these tremors are 
instantly overcome, and she shows the same power over 
the cruder forms of human suffering that she had 
tendered to the wayward struggles of the spirit. " How 
long will the Signora stay? When will the Signora 
come again ?"^^ was the eager murmur from the hearts 
she had cheered and comforted. 

It will be asked, where was the old Margaret, the 
disagreeable Margaret, the harsh, dominating, self- 
willed egotism? Not wholly dead, doubtless. She her- 
self says: "In the foundation of my character, in my 



i62 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 

aims I am always the same."^^ So are we all. But 
at least her heart had been immensely changed and 
modified by love and pity. She had suffered in life 
far more than she had enjoyed, she says, and suffering 
changes all hearts one way or the other. Ambition? 
She still cherishes it in a manner, still hopes to be a 
great writer, plans a history of the noble doings in Italy, 
which was lost with her, to the regret of many. Self- 
culture, all the fine Goethean theories ? Oh, perhaps she 
has them, but she has at last come to know the great 
secret, — that the height of self-culture is to forget 
culture and to forget self; that he that loseth his 
life shall find it. And in the pity of her struggle — 
struggle with health, struggle with narrow circum- 
stances, struggle with war and the ruins of war — her 
courage almost ebbs away in a languishing cry : '*' Yes ; I 
am weary, and faith soars and sings no more. Nothing 
is left good of me, except at the bottom of the heart a 
melting tenderness." ^^ Surely a strange utterance from 
the haughty spirit of earlier years. 

So the high Italian dream was over. There was noth- 
ing left for Margaret and her husband among his people, 
and her thoughts turned again to home. She would 
go back to America, would strive once more to gain 
recognition of her powers, aiming rather at others' 



MARGARET FULLER OSSOLI 163 

profit than her own. She accepted the task, made such 
preparations as she could. But her heart was heavy, 
weighed down with undue, unreasonable fear. *'I am 
become a miserable coward. I fear heat and cold and 
even mosquitoes. I fear terribly the voyage home, fear 
biting poverty." '^^ Everything connected with her jour- 
ney seemed to turn into sad omen, or so she read it in 
her doubting soul. At the very last moment the fore- 
boding was so heavy that she found it difficult to force 
herself to go on board the vessel. She did so, and all 
her fears were realized. She passed the Atlantic safely, 
only to be wrecked on Fire Island beach in July, 1850. 
We need not analyze the extensive investigations and 
confused narratives of the final disaster. It is enough to 
know that Margaret perished with her husband and 
child, as she would have wished. 

It was a pathetic, tragic end to a tragic career. We 
certainly cannot say that Margaret's life was wasted 
when we appreciate her immense influence upon her con- 
temporaries and those who came after her. Yet it does 
not seem as if her achievement matched her powers. 
She was a woman of marvelous complexity, like all 
women, and all men, and her complexity strikes you 
with tenfold force because she went out like a candle 
when a window is suddenly opened into great night. 



VI 

LOUISA MAY ALCOTT 



CHRONOLOGY 

Louisa May Alcott. 

Bom in Germantown, Pennsylvania, November 29, 1832. 

Grew up mainly in Concord and Boston. 

Nursed in Washington hospitals, 1 862-1 863. 

"Little Women" published October, i^ 

In Europe, 1865-1866 and 1870-1871, 

Died March 6, il 




LOUISA MAY ALCOTT 



VI 
LOUISA MAY ALCOTT 

I 

Her father thought himself a philosopher. His family 
agreed with him. So did his friend and contemporary, 
Emerson, and a few others. He was at any rate a phi- 
losopher in his complete inability to earn or to keep 
money. Her mother was by nature a noble and charm- 
ing woman, by profession a household drudge. Louisa 
and her three sisters were born in odd corners between 
1830 and 1840 and grew up in Concord and elsewhere. 
They knew a little, quite enough, about philosophy and a 
great deal about drudgery. Louisa determined in early 
youth to eschew philosophy and drudgery both, to be in- 
dependent, and to earn an honest livelihood for herself 
and her family. She did it, wrote books that charmed 
and paid, and died wornout before she was old, but with 
a comfortable lapful of glory. 

I do not mean to imply that the Alcotts' poverty was 
sordid or pitiable. Innate dignity of character, sweet- 
ness and natural cheerfulness, kept it from being any- 
thing of the kind. If they had not money, they had high 



i68 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 

ideals; and high ideals afford a certain substitute for 
comfort, after they have thrust it out of doors. No 
doubt, also, the rugged discipline of privation fits souls 
better for the ups and downs of life, which, for most 
men and women, mean more hardship than comfort. 
At the same time, to understand Louisa Alcott, what 
she did and what she was, we must keep the bitterness 
of youthful poverty before us, the perpetual struggle to 
get clothes and food and other necessaries, the burden of 
debts and charity, the fret and strain of nerves worn 
with anxiety and endeavor, the endless uncertainty 
about the future. " It was characteristic of this family 
that they never were conquered by their surroundings," * 
says the biographer. This is true ; yet such experiences 
fray the edges of the soul, when they do not impair its 
substance. Louisa's soul was frayed. Poverty bit her 
like a north wind, spurred to effort, yet chilled and tor- 
tured just the same. " Little Lu began early to feel the 
family cares and peculiar trials," ^ she says of her child- 
hood. In her young-womanhood, when just beginning 
to see her way, she is hampered in the walks she likes 
because of "stockings with a profusion of toe, but no 
heel, and shoes with plenty of heel, but a paucity of 
toe." ^ Later still, when the world ought to have been 
going well with her, her cry is, " If I think of my woes 



LOUISA MAY ALCOTT 169 

I fall into a vortex of debts, dishpans, and despondency 
awful to see." * 

The nature of these troubles and the depth of them 
were specially evident to her, because she was born with 
a shrewd native wit and keen intelligence. Her edu- 
cation was somewhat erratic, furnished mainly by her 
father from his wide but heterogeneous store and with 
eccentric methods. From her childhood she was an im- 
petuous reader, of all sorts of books anS in all sorts of 
ways and places. She read stories and poems, and more 
serious writings, when the whim seized her. Goethe, for 
example, she liked early and praised late, though I do 
not know that much of Goethe is to be seen in her life or 
in her best-known books. Above all, she employed her 
brain for practical objects, loved mental method and 
tidiness. "I used to imagine my mind a room in con- 
fusion, and I was to put it in order ; so I swept out use- 
less thoughts and dusted foolish fancies away, and 
furnished it with good resolutions and began again. But 
cobwebs get in. I 'm not a good housekeeper, and never 
get my room in nice order." ^ And with the same practi- 
cal tendency she analyzed all things about her and all 
men and women. Her father's various contacts brought 
many people to his door, and Louisa learned early to 
distinguish. "A curious jumble of fools and philoso- 



170 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 

phers," ® she says calmly of one of his beloved clubs. No 
doubt she would have given the same verdict on the 
world in general and with the same wise caution as to 
deciding the proportions. Nor was she less ready to 
analyze herself, as portrayed in one of her stories. 
"Much describing of other people's passions and feel- 
ings set her to studying and speculating about her own 
— a morbid amusement, in which healthy young minds 
do not voluntarily indulge." "^ 

What marked her character in all this was honesty, 
sincerity, straightforward simplicity. Like Jo in " Little 
Women," who follows her creatress so closely, Louisa, 
as a child, had more of the boy than of the girl about 
her, did not care for frills or flounces, did not care for 
dances or teas, liked fresh air and fresh thoughts and 
hearty quarrels and forgetful reconciliations. She 
would shake your hand and look in your eye and make 
you trust her. Jo's wild words were always getting her 
into scrapes. " Oh, my tongue, my abominable tongue ! 
Why can't I learn to keep it quiet? "^ So she sighed, 
and so Louisa had often sighed before her. But with 
the outspokenness went a splendid veracity and a loath- 
ing for what was false or mean or cowardly. " With all 
her imagination and romance. Miss Alcott was a tre- 
mendous destroyer of illusions,"^ says Mrs. Cheney; 



LOUISA MAY ALCOTT 171 

"Oh, wicked L. M. A., who hates sham and loves a 
joke," ^^ says Miss Alcott herself. 

The disposition to excessive analysis and great frank- 
ness in expressing the results of the same are not 
especially favorable to social popularity or success, and 
it does not appear that Louisa had these things or wished 
to have them. Here again Jo renders her creatress very 
faithfully. She was perfectly capable of having a jolly 
time in company ; in fact, when she was in the mood and 
with those she liked, she could be full of fun and frolic, 
could lead everybody in wild laughter and joyous pranks 
and merriment. She could run into a party of strangers 
at the seashore and be gay with them. " Found a family 
of six pretty daughters, a pleasant mother, and a father 
who was an image of one of the Cheeryble brothers. 
Had a jolly time boating, driving, charading, dancing, 
and picnicking. One mild moonlight night a party of us 
camped out on Norman's Woe, and had a splendid time, 
lying on the rocks singing, talking, sleeping, and riot- 
ing up and down."^^ But usually she was shy with 
strangers, perhaps shyer with people she knew or half 
knew, had no patience with starched fashions or fine 
manners, liked quiet, old garments, old habits, and espe- 
cially the society of her own soul. She complains that 
her sister " does n't enjoy quiet corners as I do," ^" and 



172 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 

she complains further, through the mouth of Jo, that 
" it's easier for me to risk my life for a person than to be 
pleasant to him when I don't feel like it." ^^ 

With this disposition we might expect her to have a 
small list of friends, but those very near and dear. I do 
not find it so. " She did not encourage many intima- 
cies," says Mrs. Cheney. Though reasonably indifferent 
to the conventions, she would not have inclined to keep 
up any especially confidential relations with men. As for 
women, she wrote of her younger days, "Never liked 
girls, or knew many, except my sisters." ^^ If she did 
not make women friends in her youth, she was not likely 
to in age. 

All her affection, all her personal devotion, seem to 
have been concentrated upon her family, and from child- 
hood till death her relations with them were close and 
unbroken. How dearly she loved her sisters shines 
everywhere through the faithful family picture pre- 
served in " Little Women," and the peculiar tenderness 
Jo gave to Beth is but an exact reflection of what the 
real Elizabeth received from the real Louisa. In " Little 
Women " the affection is made only more genuine by the 
trifling tiffs and jars which always occur in nature, if 
not always in books. So in Louisa's journal her admir- 
able frankness carefully records an occasional freak or 



LOUISA MAY ALCOTT 173 

sparkle of irritation or jealously. "I feel very moral 
to-day, having done a big wash alone, baked, swept the 
house, picked the hops, got dinner, and written a chapter 
in ' Moods.' May gets exhausted with work, though she 
walks six miles without a murmur." ^^ Again, of the 
same younger sister: "How different our lives are just 
now! — I so lonely, sad, and sick; she so happy, well 
and blest. She always had the cream of things, and de- 
served it. My time is yet to come somewhere else, when 
I am ready for it." ^^ Perhaps the sympathy between Jo 
and Amy in the story was less complete than in the case 
of the older sisters. Yet the chief interest of Louisa's 
later years was her love for the child her sister May had 
left her. 

For her father, as for her sisters, she cherished a 
devoted attachment. No doubt in this, as in the other, 
there were human flaws. At times she implies a gentle 
wish that he might have done a little more for the com- 
fort of his family even if a little less for their eternal 
salvation. But this was momentary. Her usual atti- 
tude was one of tender and affectionate devotion, of 
entire and reverent appreciation of that pure and un- 
worldly spirit. Emerson tells her that her father might 
have talked with Plato. ^^ She is delighted and thinks 
of him as Plato and often calls him Plato afterward. 



174 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 

How admirable in its blending of elements is her pic- 
ture of his return from one of his unprofitable wan- 
derings: "His dress was neat and poor. He looked 
cold and thin as an icicle, but serene as God."^^ To 
her he was God in a manner, and with reasonable dis- 
counts. 

But with her mother there seem to have been no dis- 
counts whatever. The affection between them was per- 
fect and holy and enduring. Her mother understood 
her, — all her wild ways and lawless desires and weak- 
nesses and untrimmed strength. It was to her mother 
that she turned in joy and trouble, and in both she never 
failed to find the response she looked for. After her 
mother's death she writes : " I never wish her back, but 
a great warmth seems gone out of life, and there is no 
motive to go on now." ^^ Yet if there was nothing left 
to do, there was comfort in the thought of what she had 
done. For she was able to write, a few years before, 
"Had the pleasure of providing Marmee with many] 
comforts, and keeping the hounds of care and debt from 
worrying her. She sits at rest in her sunny room, and 
that is better than any amount of fame to me." ^° 

So we see that when Jo cried, in her enthusiastic 
fashion, " I do think that families are the most beautiful 
things in all the world ! " ^^ it was a simple transcript 



LOUISA MAY ALCOTT 175 

from nature. Also, it is most decidedly to be observed 
that Louisa's regard for her family was by no means 
mere sentiment, but a matter of strenuous practical 
effort. Indeed, it is not certain that the conscientious 
sense of duty is not even more prominent in her domestic 
relations than affection itself. " Duty's faithful child," ^^ 
her father called her, and the faithfulness of her duty 
meant more to him and his than anything else in the 
world. I have dwelt already upon her poignant appre- 
ciation of the hardships and privations of her childhood. 
Though she bore these with reasonable patience, she 
early and constantly manifested a distinct determina- 
tion to escape from them. "I wish I was rich, I was good, 
and we were all a happy family this day." ^^ Note even 
here that the wish is general and that she wants to save 
them all from trials as well as herself. Her own comfort 
and ease she was ready to sacrifice and did sacrifice. Did 
May need a new bonnet ? She should have it and Louisa 
would get on with a refurbished old one. Did money 
come in somewhat more freely? Louisa got mighty little 
of it herself. There were so many mouths to fill and 
clothes to buy and bills to pay. She would give any- 
thing and give up anything that she had to give or give 
up. The sacrifice of hair, which Jo accomplished with 
so many tears, was not actually achieved in Louisa's 



176 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 

case, but she was ready to make it, — and who doubt's 
that she would have made it ? 

Yet she did not relish sacrifice, or ugly things, or petty 
dependence. She was bound to get out of the rut she 
was born in; how, she did not care, so long as she did 
nothing dishonest or unworthy. Debts, ■ — she certainly 
would not have debts ; but comfort she would have and 
would pay for it. She would prove that "though an 
Alcott I can support myself." ^^ When she was but a 
child she went out alone into the fields, and vowed with 
bitter energy: "I will do something by-and-by. Don't 
care what, teach, sew, act, write, anything to help the 
family; and I '11 be rich and famous and happy before I 
die, see if I won't." ^^ 

II 

It wou13 be of course quite false to imply that Miss 
Alcott was a wholly practical, even mercenary, person, 
who lived and wrote for money only, or that the rugged 
experiences of her youth had crushed out of her sensi- 
bility and grace and imagination and all the varied 
responses which are supposed to constitute the artistic 
temperament. It is true, she had one artistic represen- 
tative in her family, and the consciousness of old bon- 
nets refurbished on that account may have somewhat re- 



LOUISA MAY ALCOTT 177 

pressed the genial flow of sesthetic impulse in her own 
character. But she had abundance of wayward emotion, 
nevertheless, and if she subdued it in one form, it es- 
caped in another. " Experiences go deep with me,"^® she 
said, and it was true. It does not appear that she had 
any especial taste for the arts. Painting she refers to 
occasionally with mild enthusiasm, music with little 
more. Perhaps we cannot quite take the Lavinia of 
"Shawl Straps" as autobiographical, but her journal 
sounds uncommonly like Louisa: "Acres of pictures. 
Like about six out of the lot :" ^'' again, " I am glad to 
have seen this classical cesspool (Rome), and still more 
glad to have got out of it alive." ^^ Nature appealed to 
her, of course, as it must have done to the child of Con- 
cord and the worshiper of Emerson. Still, the rendering 
of it in her writings, "Flower Stories," etc., and even 
in the best of her poems, " Thoreau's Flute," cannot be 
said to be profound. Her nature feeling is much more 
attractive in the brief touches of her Journal : " I had an 
early run in the woods before the dew was off the grass. 
The moss was like velvet, and as I ran under the arches 
of yellow and red leaves I sang for joy, my heart was so 
bright and the world so beautiful." ^^ Also, she had a 
keen sense of the pleasant and graceful ornaments of 
life, all the more keen because her childhood had been so 



178 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 

barren of such things. "How I wish I could be with 
you, enjoying what I have always longed for, — fine 
people, fine amusements, and fine books." ^*^ She liked 
these things, though she liked other things still more. 
'' I love luxury, but freedom and independence better." ^^ 
Her sensibility and quick emotion showed, however, 
far less in artistic enjoyment than in the inner play 
and shifting movements of her own spirit. The sudden 
variety of nature she sees reflected in herself. " It was 
a mild, windy day, very like me in its fitful changes of 
sunshine and shade." ^^ She was a creature of moods 
and fancies, smiles and tears, hopes and discourage- 
ments, as we all are, but more than most of us. From her 
childhood she liked to wander, had roaming limbs and 
a roaming soul. She "wanted to see every thing, do 
every thing, and go every where." ^^ She loved move- 
ment, activity, boys' sports and boys' exercise: "I al- 
ways thought I must have been a deer or a horse in some 
former state, because it was such a joy to run." ^* Then 
she got tired and got cross, and when she was young 
said bitter things and repented them, and when she grew 
older would have liked to say them and repented that 
also. And the ill-temper shifted suddenly and madly to 
laughter, merry drollery, wild sallies, quips, and teasing 
frolics, full well remembered by lovers of "Little 



LOUISA MAY ALCOTT 179 

Women." "The jocosity of my nature will gush out 
when it gets a chance," ^^ she says. 

Sometimes the same wild spirit would rise higher into 
a state of eager exhilaration and excitement. She longed 
for change, adventure, even suffering. She put melo- 
drama into her stories; she would have liked to put it 
into her life. When the future seems peculiarly uncer- 
tain, she writes : "It 's a queer way to live, but dramatic, 
and I rather like it ; for we never know what is to come 
next."^^ And again follows the reaction and depres- 
sion, as deep as the excitement was high and exhila- 
rating, depression far more serious than mere super- 
ficial temper, seizing and shaking the root-fibers of the 
soul. In her more elaborate novels, " Moods " and " A 
Modern Mephistopheles," she has analyzed these spir- 
itual variations, perhaps with some exaggeration, but 
with an evident autobiographical basis ; and her heroine's 
miseries certainly reflect her own. Tears she does not 
often yield to, but when she weeps, she does it thor- 
oughly: "As I seldom indulge in this moist misery, I 
like to enjoy it with all my might, when I do." ^'' 

Her active conscience prompts her to resist, to bear up 
against real trial and the still worse monotony of every- 
day care. There is an education for her in grief, she 
says ; she must make the best of it and profit by it. There 



i8o PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 

is a pleasure in drudgery, she says, if one can only find 
it. " A dull, heavy month, grubbing in the kitchen, sew- 
ing, cleaning house, and trying to like my duty." ^^ But 
she does n't like it, and it wears, and the immortal spirit 
loses its lightness and its freshness and is almost ready 
to give up the fight : " So every day is a battle, and I 'm 
so tired I don't want to live ; only it 's cowardly to die till 
you have done something." ^^ Even, on one dark day, 
all further struggle came to seem impossible, and as she 
passed the running tide on her way to Boston, she almost 
made up her mind not to pass it. But she did, and her 
"fit of despair was soon over . . . and I went home 
resolved to take Fate by the throat and shake a living 
out of her."**^ Afterwards the little experience served 
to make a story, as it has done for other writers and 
sufferers. 

It will be asked how far matters of the heart entered 
into these depressions and despairs in Miss Alcott's 
case. Directly, not very much. It is true that in the 
story just referred to she suggests love or the lack of it as 
the exciting cause for suicide. " It is not always want, 
insanity, or sin that drives women to desperate deaths; 
often it is a dreadful loneliness of heart, a hunger for 
home and friends, worse than starvation, a bitter sense 
of wrong in being denied the tender ties, the pleasant 



LOUISA MAY ALCOTT i8i 

duties, the sweet rewards that can make the himiblest life 
happy." ^^ But there is no indication that, in her own case, 
any disappointed love, any ungratified longing, was added 
to the otherwise sufficient cares that weighed down her 
mercurial spirit. Though the story of Jo is so largely au- 
tobiographical, the marriage to Professor Bhaer, in itself 
not exceptionally romantic, is pure invention, and there 
is nothing else to show that Louisa's heart was ever seri- 
ously touched. She had at least one offer of marriage, 
and considered accepting it as another form of self-sacri- 
fice for the benefit of her suffering family.*^ From this, 
even more disastrous than the projected tonsorial mar- 
tyrdom, she was happily dissuaded ; and if other similar 
opportunities occurred, they are not mentioned. 

She would even have us believe — and so would her 
biographer — that she took little interest in love matters 
and introduced them in her books for purposes of sale 
and popular success. "She always said that she got 
tired of everybody," says Mrs. Cheney, "and felt sure 
that she should of her husband if she married." ^^ Miss 
Alcott herself expresses some interest in possible children 
of her own and a certain admiration for babies, but she 
has observed that few marriages are happy ones *^ and 
she thinks that " liberty is a better husband than love to 
many of us." ^^ 



i82 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 

This may be all very true. Nevertheless, it will hardly 
be denied that many of her stories reek with amorous- 
ness. Perhaps this was precisely because the subject 
did not naturally interest her, and, being anxious to deal 
with it enough to please the public and make money, she 
dealt with it too much. But the explanation seems rather 
far-fetched, and I am inclined to believe that she had all 
a woman's interest in lovers, whatever may have been 
her opinion of husbands. Her references to personal 
appearance, both her own and others', show a due sensi- 
tiveness to natural charms and to their possible appeal 
to the other sex. If she looks in the glass, she tries " to 
keep down vanity about my long hair, my well-shaped 
head, and my good nose,"*^ but she is sufficiently aware 
of their attraction, all the same. Indeed, in her vicari- 
ous love-making there is a curious, teasing insistence 
that suggests far more than a mere mercenary preoccu- 
pation ; and in the serious novels, into which she put her 
best artistic effort, the almost feverish eroticism would 
seem to indicate, as with other unmarried writers, a 
constant presence of the woman in her extreme fem- 
ininity, however obscure and unacknowledged. 

As Miss Alcott had all the sensitiveness, the whims 
and shifts of mood, the eccentric possibilities, of the 
born artist, so she was by no means without the artist's 



LOUISA MAY ALCOTT 183 

instinct of ambition and desire for fame. From child- 
hood she wanted to do something that would make her 
great and distinguished and a figure in the mouths and 
hearts of men. She wanted to act; wrote plays and pro- 
duced them in the parlor, as Jo did ; had visions of oper- 
atic and theatrical triumphs. She envied the successes 
of great authors. When she read "Jane Eyre," she 
writes : " I can't be a C. B., but I may do a little something 
yet."^^ Her young friends tease her about being an 
authoress. She assures them that she will be, though 
she adds modestly to herself, " Will if I can, but some- 
thing else may be better for me."^^ Not only has she 
the theory of authorship, but all her emotions and desires 
and fancies naturally seek literary expression. When 
she was a child, she wrote verses for the pure delight of 
it, — not great verses certainly, but they pleased and re- 
lieved her. When she stood at the other extreme of life, 
she wrote verses still. " Father and I cannot sleep, but 
he and I make verses as we did when Marmee died." '^^ 
When she was weary or overwrought, she turned to 
her pen for distraction, if not for comfort. "Began 
a book called ' Genius.' Shall never finish it, I dare say, 
but must keep a vent for my fancies to escape at."^° 

She viewed life from the artist's angle also, took it 
impersonally in its larger relations as well as in its imme- 



i84 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 

diate appeal to her. She notes early in her Journal that 
she began to see the strong contrasts and the fun and 
follies in every-day life. She always saw them and al- 
ways had the strong impulse to turn them into litera- 
ture. And her methods were not mechanical, did not 
savor of the shop or the workbench. In the interesting 
account of them which she jotted down in later years 
the marked flavor of inspiration and artistic instinct is 
apparent. She never had a study, she says, writes with 
any pen or paper that come to hand, always has a head 
full of plots and a heart full of passions, works them 
over at odd moments and writes them down from mem- 
ory, as fancy and convenience dictate. Quiet she wants, 
and solitude, if possible, and a stimulating environment, 
or at least not a deadening one. " Very few stories writ- 
ten in Concord; no inspiration in that dull place. Go to 
Boston, hire a quiet room and shut myself in it."^^ 

If the creative impulse possesses her, it possesses her 
wholly. When she can work, she can't wait, she says. 
Sleep is of no consequence, food is of no consequence. 
She can't work slowly. The ideas boil and bubble and 
must find their vent. When she was writing her favorite 
" Moods," there was no rest for her. She was tied to her 
desk day after day. Her family alternately praised and 
worried. Her mother administered tea and her father 



LOUISA MAY ALCOTT 185 

red apples, " All sorts of fun was going on ; but I did n't 
care if the world returned to chaos if I and my inkstand 
only ' lit ' in the same place." ^^ Then, after the excite- 
ment of labor came the excitement of glory. Men and 
women, well known in her world at any rate, crowded 
to praise and compliment. " I liked it, but think a small 
dose quite as much as is good for me; for after sitting 
in a corner and grubbing a la Cinderella, it rather turns 
one's head to be taken out and be treated like a princess 
all of a sudden." ^^ 

Nor did she lack the discouragement and depression 
inseparable from all artistic effort. There were the end- 
less external difficulties which every artist knows and 
none but artists much sympathize with: the frets, the 
home cares, always so much accentuated in the case of a 
woman, even when she is unmarried, the perpetual, the 
trivial, and more harassing because trivial, interrup- 
tions. Idle neighbors chat of idle doings; hours slip 
away; when at last the free hour and the quiet spot are 
found, weary nerves have no longer any inspiration left 
in them. Of one of her books that she loved she says 
pathetically : " Not what it should be, — too many inter- 
ruptions. Should like to do one book in peace, and see 
if it would n't be good." ^* On another occasion she gets 
ready for a fit of work. Then John Brown's daughters 



i86 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 

come to board ; arrangements have to be made for them 
and their comfort provided for. Louisa cries out her 
sorrow on the fat ragbag in the garret and sets to work 
at housekeeping, " I think disappointment must be good 
for me, I get so much of it ; and the constant thumping 
Fate gives me may be a mellowing process ; so I shall be 
a ripe and sweet old pippin before I die." ^^ 

Yet the books get done somehow. Only, when they 
are done, the troubles seem just begun rather than 
ended. Publishers are refractory, such being their na- 
ture, like that of other human beings. Stories are ac- 
cepted and all seems triumphant. But they do not come 
out; instead, are held back by long and quite needless 
delays, till it is evident that the world is criminally in- 
different to works that are bound to be immortal. " All 
very aggravating to a young woman with one dollar, no 
bonnet, half a gown, and a discontented mind."^^ 

Perhaps worst of all, when you do achieve success and 
are read and admired, there comes the deadly doubt 
about the value of your own work; for, however much 
they may resent the faultfinding of others, authors who 
really count are their own severest critics ; and of all the 
sorrows of the literary life none is keener than the feel- 
ing that what you have done is far enough from what 
you would have liked to do. In this point, also, Miss 



LOUISA MAY ALCOTT 187 

Alcott was an author, and she often indicates what she 
expressed freely in regard to some of her minor works. 
"They were not good, and though they sold the paper 
I was heartily ashamed of them . . . I 'm glad of the 
lesson, and hope it will do me good."^^ 

So we may safely conclude that it was not only hard 
necessity that drove her to write, but that if she had 
grown up in all comfort and with abundant means always 
at her command, she would still have felt the teasing im- 
pulses of the literary instinct, still have bound herself to 
the staid drudgery of ink and paper and been slave to the 
high hopes and deep despairs which mean life — and 
death — to those who are born with the curious long- 
ing to create things beautiful. 



Ill 

As it was, however, there can be no doubt that the solid 
need of earning money was the chief and enduring spur 
of her literary effort. She was not essentially and first of 
all a preacher, as was Mrs. Stowe. Some may disagree 
about this, considering the extreme moralizing of many, 
not to say all, of her stories. The moralizing is evident 
and undeniable. She not only took pains to avoid what 
might be, in her opinion, distinctly injurious, though 



1 88 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 

there are critics who hold that in this she was far from 
successful; but she rarely misses an opportunity for di- 
rect preaching. Indeed, in some of her inferior writings 
the preaching is so overdone that it surfeits even her most 
ardent admirers. She is determined to preach, will not 
be hindered from preaching; boys and girls must learn 
something good, if they are to linger with her. Yet the 
fury of the effort implies something artificial about it. 
Her preaching is an acquired habit and discipline, not 
an inherited, divine impulse, like Mrs. Stowe's. When 
you look carefully into Louisa's religion, you appre- 
ciate at once what I mean. It was a sturdy, working 
religion, solid, substantial, full of good deeds and kind- 
ness. Her own hard experience had made her eminently 
ready to help others. When she gets money, she gives 
it, and she gives sympathy always. " I like to help the 
class of ' silent poor ' to which we belonged for so many 
years." ^^ But her own hard experience had been too 
closely connected with abstract religion and concrete 
philosophers for her to cherish much personal affec- 
tion for abstract religion and philosophy. In her 
thoughtful childhood she did indeed touch God under 
the whisper of the great pines: "It seemed as if I 
felt God as I never did before, and I prayed in my 
heart that I might keep that happy sense of near- 



LOUISA MAY ALCOTT 189 

ness all my life."^^ But she was too honest to pay 
herself with words, and to her, as to so many of her 
contemporaries, religious hope remained simply a glim- 
mering star to distract thought from dark gulfs that had 
no hope in them at all. "Life always was a puzzle to 
me, and gets more mysterious as I go on. I shall find it 
out by and by and see that it's all right, if I can only 
keep brave and patient to the end." ^^ 

Meantime she must earn money. She set out with 
that motive in her youth and it abode with her till her 
death. Do not take this in any sordid sense. She was as 
far as possible from being a miser or a squanderer. She 
found no pleasure in the long accumulation of a fortune, 
none in the mad spending of it. But the terrible lack of 
dollars in her childhood had taught her their value. All 
her life she was in need of moderate ease herself and 
those she loved needed it far more. Therefore she must 
and she would and she did earn money. How she earned 
it was of less importance, and she was perfectly ready 
to try any of the few forms of earning then accessible 
to women. " Tried for teaching, sewing, or any honest 
work. Won't go home to sit idle while I have a head and 
pair of hands." ®^ She takes- a place as governess and 
goes into ecstasy over her small wages : " Every one of 
those dollars cried aloud, * What, ho ! Come hither, and 



190 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 

be happy! '"^^ She even goes out as a simple servant, 
v^ith disastrous results, as fully related by herself. Teach- 
ing comes into the list, of course. But she was never 
successful at it, and when Fields, with all a publisher's 
hearty kindness, says to her, "Stick to your teaching; 
you can't write," she murmurs, under her breath, 
"I won't teach; and I can write, and I '11 prove it."^^ 

For, of all the forms of drudgery for money, she 
found literature the most acceptable and agreeable. " I 
can't do much with my hands ; so I will make a battering- 
ram of my head and make a way through this rough- 
and-tumble world." ^^ She did it; but do not imagine 
that the way was easy, that the dollars rolled into her 
lap, or that she could escape many hard knocks and stag- 
gering buffets. Late in her life a young man asked her 
if she would advise him to devote himself to authorship. 
" Not if you can do anything else, even dig ditches," ®" 
was the bitter answer. For years she found the upward 
road a piece of long and tedious traveling. Hours had 
to be snatched where possible, or impossible, necessary 
tasks had to be slighted, health had to be risked and 
wasted, all to write stories which she knew to be worth- 
less, but which she hoped would sell. They did sell 
after a fashion, brought her five dollars here, ten dollars 
there, enough to buy a pair of shoes or stop a gaping 



LOUISA MAY ALCOTT 191 

creditor's mouth for a moment. But what vast labor 
was expended for petty results or none, what vaster 
hopes were daily thrown down, only to be built up again 
with inexhaustible endurance and energy ! 

Even when success came and the five dollars were 
transformed into fifty and five hundred, there was strug- 
gle still, perhaps more wearing than at first. Engage- 
ments had to be met and publishers satisfied, no matter 
how irksome the effort. " I wrote it with left hand in a 
sling, one foot up, head aching, and no voice," ^^ she 
says of one story. Though money was abundant, it was 
never abundant enough: "The family seem so panic- 
stricken anS helpless when I break down, that I try to 
keep the mill going." ^'^ To be sure, there was glory. 
When it began to come, she appreciated it keenly. 
" Success has gone to my head, and I wander a little. 
Twenty-seven years old, and very happy." ^^ It was 
pleasant to be widely praised and admired, pleasant to 
have compliments from great men and brilliant women, 
pleasantest of all, perhaps, to feel that children loved 
your books and cried over them and loved you. Yet she 
seems to have felt the annoyances of glory more than 
most authors an3 to have savored its sweets less. Per- 
haps this was because she was early worn out with over- 
work and over-anxiety. "When I had the youth I 



192 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 

had no money; now I have the money I have no time; 
and when I get the time, if I ever do, I shall have no 
health to enjoy life."^^ Fame bothered her. She re- 
sented the intrusions of reporters, even the kindly curi- 
osity of adoring readers. What right had they to pester 
a quiet woman earning her living with desperate effort 
in her own way? For the earning, after all, was the side 
that appealed to her, the earning with all it meant. " The 
cream of the joke is, that we made our own money our- 
selves, and no one gave us a blessed penny. That (ioes 
soothe my rumpled soul so much that the glory is not 
worth thinking of."'^*' 

Also, to be sure, she had always the feeling that she 
was not doing the best she could and that the money came 
most freely for the things she was not most proud of. 
In her early days she wrote and sold sensational stories 
of a rather cheap order. Certain features of these 
pleased her. She confesses quite frankly that she had 
" a taste for ghastliness " "^^ and that she was " fond of 
the night side of nature." '^^ But she longed to do some- 
thing else, and she tried to, — in " Moods " and " A Mod- 
ern Mephistopheles," — perhaps not very well, at any 
rate not very successfully. Few get the glory they want, 
but there is probably a peculiar bitterness in getting the 
glory you don't want. 



LOUISA MAY ALCOTT 193 

Then she hit on a line of work which, if not 
great or original, was sane and genuine. She put her 
own life, her own heart into her books, and they were 
read with delight because her heart was like the hearts 
of all of us. As a child, she wanted to sell her hair to 
support her family. When she was older, she supported 
them by selling her flesh and blood, an3! theirs, but al- 
ways with a fine and dignified reserve as well as a charm- 
ing frankness. Every creative author builds his books 
out of his own experience. They would be worthless 
otherwise. But few have drawn upon the fund more 
extensively and constantly than Miss Alcott. And she 
was wise to do it, and when she ceased to do it, she failed. 
She could allege the great authority of Goethe for her 
practice : " Goethe puts his joys and sorrows into poems ; 
I turn my adventures Into bread and butter." '^^ She 
could also have alleged the shrewdness and vast human 
experience of Voltaire, who said : " Whoever has, as you 
have. Imagination and common-sense, can find In him- 
self, without other aid, the complete knowledge of human 
nature." ''^ 

So she coined her soul to pad her purse and, Incident- 
ally, to give solace to many. The worshipers of art for 
art's sake may sneer at her, but she remains in excellent 
company. Scott, Dumas, TroUope, to name no others, col- 



194 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 

lected cash, as well as glory, with broad and easy negli- 
gence. And the point is that, while doing so, they estab- 
lished themselves securely among the benefactors of 
mankind. The great thinkers, the great poets, the great 
statesmen, the great religious teachers sway us upward 
for our good. But they often lead us astray and they 
always harass us in the process. I do not know that they 
deserve much more of our gratitude than those who 
make our souls forget by telling charming stories. Per- 
haps " Little Women " does not belong in quite the same 
order as " Rob Roy," or " Les Trois Mousquetaires," or 
even " Phineas Finn." But it is not an unenviable fate 
to have gained an honest independence by giving profit 
and delight to millions. Miss Alcott did it — and 
Shakespeare. 



VII 
FRANCES ELIZABETH WILLARD 



CHRONOLOGY 

Frances Elizabeth Willard 

Born in Churchville, New York, September 28, 1839. 

Removed to Oberlin, Ohio, 1841. 

Removed to Wisconsin, 1846. 

At Milwaukee Female College, 1857. 

At Northwestern Female College, 1858, 1859. 

Taught till 1874. 

Entered Temperance Work, 1874. 

President National Woman's Christian Temperance Union, 1879. 

President World's Woman's Christian Temperance Union, 1888. 

Died February 17, 1898. 




FRANCES WILLARD 



VII 

FRANCES ELIZABETH WILLARD 

I 

She had the great West behind her; its sky and its 
distances, its fresh vigor and its unexampled joy. Her 
father carried his New England traditions and his in- 
fant children from New York in the early forties, — 
first to Ohio, then to Wisconsin, — and Frances and 
her brother and sister were fed full on corn, pork, farm- 
ing, and religion. She herself cites with entire ap- 
proval her mother's analysis of the child's fortunate 
heredity : " The Thompson generosity, the Willard deli- 
cacy, the Hill purpose and steadfastness, the French 
element coming from the Lewis family, make up an 
unique human amalgam." ^ Whatever her heredity, she 
had a sane and healthy childhood. She lived with the ani- 
mals, and raced and romped and rioted; she lived with 
the Bible and with high ideals and direct and pointed 
English, and she contracted an abhorrence of whiskey 
which supplied her for life with a more eager stimulant 
than whiskey could possibly have furnished. 

As a consequence of her breeding and surroundings, 



198 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 

she had excellent health. Her mother said that in 
childhood Frances was the most delicate of all her chil- 
dren and that she had an organism exceptionally sus- 
ceptible to physical paln.^ She herself enlarges often 
upon the exquisite fineness of her sensibility.^ But fresh 
air, exercise, and ample sleep, maintained under even 
the greatest pressure of business, gave her a sound and 
vigorous body, and no doubt as much as anything else 
enabled her to say, near the very end of her career: 
"The chief wonder of my life is that I dare to have 
so good a time, both physically, mentally, and reli- 
giously."* To have so good a time, remember it. 

With the well-nourished body and the firm, sturdy^ 
muscles went an unfailing energy of purpose and of 
execution. She was no listless performer of household 
duty, no tame dishwasher or bedmaker, doing routine 
tasks from day to day, without a thought beyond them. 
Her mother says : " I wonder sometimes that I had the 
wit to let her do what she preferred instead of obliging 
her to take up housework as did all the other girls of 
our acquaintance."** Wit or not, it was a course ad- 
mirably suited to Frances. She dodged the dishpan, 
milked the cows instead, rode the horses, rode the cows, 
too, If the whim seized her, held the plough at need, 
and in the intervals roved the fields and pastures, and 



FRANCES ELIZABETH WILLARD 199 

let her soul rove even more widely than her feet did. 
Routine of all sorts she hated always, and shunned it 
when she could. " To be tied to a bell rope," she says, 
was "an asphyxiating process from which I vainly 
sought escape, changing the spot only to Keep the 
pain." ^ 

Everything in her case, you see, favored the building 
up of a strong individuality, an ardent, independent will, 
and such was the result. She knew her own way and 
sought it with tremendous persistence and astonishing 
success. She had a spice of temper, which she well 
recognized and fought and got the better of, but with 
immense struggle. When she was a schoolgirl, she had 
an amiable playmate whose amiability irritated her. 
She "just stepped on Effie's toes at recess to see if she 
wouldn't frown, and sure enough she didn't."^ All 
through life she felt an inclination to step on such 
amiable toes. Her willfulness showed in the inclination 
and her will in keeping it under. 

Souls of this positive, individual temper are not al- 
ways successful in their relations with others, do not 
always care to mingle with others or to frame their 
lives in conjunction with their fellow men and women. 
Miss Willard's account of herself shows strong symp- 
toms of this self -withdrawing disposition. She speaks 



200 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 

of her painful shyness in youth, of her difficulties in 
meeting people and in adapting herself to them. She 
makes an interesting admission, also, which places her 
sharply in one of the two great classes into which social 
humanity is divided: "I have an unconquerable aver- 
sion to intercourse with my superiors in position, age, 
or education."^ Such an aversion, like its opposite, is 
the key to many lives and furnishes a great help for 
understanding Miss Willard's. 

On the other hand, she had many striking social quali- 
ties. Her rush and furious abundance of spirits, her 
immense mental activity, naturally sought utterance 
with those who would understand her and appreciate 
her ardor. She had varied and sparkling wit, could tell 
excellent stories and did, —- stories that were remem- 
bered and repeated after her. She shone in conversa- 
tion, — real conversation apparently, that is, in which 
others did their part as well as she. Her commenf 
upon Emerson's well-known saying, "we descend to 
meet," is curious. She thinks that Emerson lived too 
early to know what true meeting was, and that the in- 
tercourse of advanced, emancipated women almost real- 
izes the privileges of celestial society. ® Yet in a milder 
moment she herself admits that wholly successful con- 
versation is possible only with the very limited number 



FRANCES ELIZABETH WILLARD 201 

wKo are akin to us. If she who had talked with thou- 
sands an3 thousands could write the following words, 
surely there is some excuse for those who find life a 
spiritual solitude. "I do not believe that six persons 
have ever heard me talk, and not more than three ever 
in private converse heard my vox humana, simply be- 
cause they were not skilled musicians. . . . For myself 
I know so little of [perfect response] that only as a 
foretaste of heaven's companionships do I think of such 
beatitude at all." '"^ 

However unsatisfactory Miss Willard may have 
found general society, there is no question as to her 
deep tenderness for her intimate friends and fellow 
workers. In her " Autobiography " she gives a curious 
analysis of the passionate affections of her girlhood. 
They were marked by all the sensitiveness, all the con- 
fidence, all the jealousy of woman's love for man. In 
the letters written in later years to one of her co-laborers 
I find much the same tone of devoted personal attach- 
ment : " I would I could fondly believe myself one tithe 
as much a woman after your own heart, as you are 
after mine. I don't mean to let you go your gait away 
from my ken and kindly regards 'never no more.' " ^^ 

Above all, from youth to age. Miss Willard felt this 
yearning, clinging affection for the members of her own 



202 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 

family. Her father and brother were very dear to her. 
Her sister, Mary, whose brief life she commemorated 
in the little volume entitled, "Nineteen Beautiful 
Years," was even dearer. When she first parted from 
them, the wrench shook her whole being, and she de- 
scribes the pain of it in delightfully characteristic lan- 
guage: "I have cried like a child, no, like a strong 
man, rather, until I quivered ivith trying to suppress 
the sobs that would make themselves audible." ^^ WitH 
her mother the relation was closest of all. Mrs. Willard 
reared her daughter to be a notable woman, made her 
worthy to be so, and lived to see her so, with infinite 
satisfaction. And Frances's admiration and adoration 
for her mother continued and increased through life. 
" My nature is so woven into hers that I almost think It 
would be death for me to have the bond severed and 
one so much myself gone over the river." ^^ 

And how about men ? It is evident enough that such 
a vivid, passionate nature had treasures of affection to 
bestow, if circumstances had favored it. She had lovers, 
too. At least she says so, and I believe her. In the 
bitter, slightly over-bitter, analysis which she makes 
of herself, she says that she is "not beautiful, pretty, 
or even good-looking."*^ Others thought differently, 
and one enthusiast concluded from her appearance in 



FRANCES ELIZABETH WILLARD 203 

age that in youth she " must have possessed a rare and 
exquisite beauty." ^^ However this may be, I fancy she 
was Hked even more for her words and spirit than for 
her looks. She implies that possibly, if the right man 
had wooed her, she might have been won. The right 
man never did. Meantime, her comments upon love 
and her own capacity for love and her rigid resistance 
to love are delicious. I wish I could quote the whole 
of them. "I have never been in love, I have never 
shed a tear or dreamed a dream, or sighed, or had a 
sleepless hour for love. ... I was too cautious, loved 
my own peace too well, valued myself too highly, re- 
membered too frequently that I was made for something 
far more worthy than to spend a disconsolate life, wast- 
ing my heart, the richest gift I could bestow, upon a 
man who did not care for it."^® This when she was 
but little over twenty. Many years later she adds : " Of 
the real romance of my life, unguessed save by a trio 
of close friends, these pages may not tell." ^'^ Oh, but 
I wish they might have told! What would she have 
said of the love she had, when she writes so ardentl}^ 
of the love she had not ! 

But love in her career was a mere phantom, a drift- 
ing rose-cloud. She had other things to think of that 
were, or seemed to her, more important. And what 



204 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 

apparatus and equipment had she for thinking of them? 
She had a good background of intelligence and thought 
behind her, came of New England stock that was ac- 
customed to deal with the abstract problems of life, as 
well as with the practical. She had a substantial and 
fairly varied education. She read very widely, even 
in her younger days. When she was eighteen, she 
placidly informed her father that, being of age, she was 
going to read novels, though he disapproved of them.^^ 
She did. The list of books on her desk when she was 
twenty is portentous : Watts " On the Mind," Kames's 
"Elements of Criticism," Niebuhr's "Life and Let- 
ters," ^^ etc. She was brought up on Lord Chesterfield's 
letters to his son and tried to put his precepts into 
practice. She digested the disillusioned maxims of 
Chamfort and quotes with approval one of the most 
disillusioned of them : " In great matters men show them- 
selves as they wish to be seen ; in small matters as they 



are." 2° 



And she had the natural thinking power, without 
which books, even disillusioned, obscure the spirit's 
progress rather than help it. She made up her mind 
about things independently, made it up quickly, made 
it up firmly, though she always recognized the possibil- 
ity of change with a changing point of view. "This 



FRANCES ELIZABETH WILLARD 205 

is my opinion now ; will it change ? It niay seem wrong 
to others. It is my way of thinking, and I have a right 
to it. That right I will maintain." ^^ She analyzed 
everything fearlessly, — analyzed her own heart, ana- 
lyzed nature and the world, analyzed the men and 
women about her. Her analysis may not always have 
been perfect or profound. It was at least sincere, and, 
on the whole, free from prejudice. She analyzed life, 
and especially, with curious force and bareness, she 
analyzed death. How simple and direct is the account 
in her Journal of her feelings at the bedside of her 
dying sister: "I leaned on the railing at the foot of 
the bed and looked at my sister — my sister Mary — 
and knew that she was dead, knew that she was alive! 
Everything was far off; I was benumbed and am but 
waking to the tingling agony." ^^ How vivid and poign^ 
ant are the reflections suggested by the same scene 
in regard to herself: "Then, too, I am coming right 
straight on to the same doom : I, who sit here this bright 
morning, with carefully made toilet, attentive eyes, ears 
open to every sound, I, with my thousand thoughts, my 
steady-beating heart, shall lie there so still, so cold, and 
for so long."^^ 

If she applied such analysis to everything, and from 
her early childhood, how was it with religion, — when 



2o6 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 

did it take hold of her, how fully, how genuinely, how 
deeply? Her sensibility was keen enough to be much 
stirred by its emotional side. She was sensitive to 
everything. Art indeed did not come within her youth- 
ful range, and in later life she was too busy for it. But 
music she loved and felt, and music as the expression 
of religious feeling had an almost overpowering effect 
on her. The sense of mystery was present with her, 
too, always, even in the midst of common things: "I 
have the feeling of one who walks blindfold among 
scenes too awful for his nerves to bear, in the midst 
of which we eat and drink, wash our faces and com- 
plain that the fire won't burn in the grate, or that the 
tea-bell doesn't ring in season."^* But in early days 
her analytical temper reacted against religion as against 
other things. The letter of doubt and questioning which 
she wrote to her teacher in the midst of a revival, with 
its unconscious reproduction of a wicked jest of Vol- 
taire, — "O God, if there be a God, save my soul, i£ 
I have a soul, " ^^ — is a curious document. Neverthe- 
less, she later accepted the orthodox faith in full and 
with complete, though always enlightened, abandonment. 
Only religion to her was action, — doing something for 
somebody, not dreaming or theological speculation. 
Her creed was broad enough to take in the whole world, 



FRANCES ELIZABETH WILLARD 207 

but its essence was practice. In other words, her re- 
ligion was not a science, but an art, the art she meant 
when one of her friends complained, "How can you 
think it right to give up your interest in literature and 
art ? " and Miss Willard answered, " What greater art 
than to try to restore the image of God to faces that 
have lost it?"'« 

y 
II 
For she was above all, and more than all, a worker for 
humanity, and it as such that the study of her character 
becomes profoundly interesting. Let us first consider 
her work objectively, as it were, that is, in its effect 
upon others, and then in its even more interesting effect 
upon herself. From a child she wanted to do some- 
thing in the world, to make men happier and better and 
fitter for this life and for another. She realized in- 
tensely the miseries of existence, those unavoidable and 
those that might so easily be avoided. She heard the 
cries of suffering that all might hear, and her vivid 
imagination pictured the cries that were heard of none. 
"I wish my mission might be to those who make no 
sign, yet suffer most intensely under their cold, impas- 
sive faces." ^'' All through her youth she was restless, 
eager, longing, yet knew not what to do more than the 



2o8 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 

daily task that came in her way. Then the temperance 
cause called her, with suffrage and the general advance- 
ment of women as adjuncts. She had found what she 
wanted and she worked for it till death, with every 
power that was in her. Thought of personal profit there 
was none; we may say it with absolute certainty. She 
liked comfort and she spent with freedom, but when 
she declares " I '11 never lay up money and I '11 never be 
rich," ^^ we know it is true. 

And what admirable powers she had for the work! 
Energy? Her energy was inexhaustible, and as well 
directed as it was tireless. She herself tells us so: "I 
have never been discouraged, but ready on the instant 
with my decision, and rejoicing in nothing so much as 
the taking of initiatives."^^ But we know it without 
her telling us. Labor? She can labor like a machine. 
"What it would be to have an idle hour I find it hard 
to fancy." ^^ She was careful as to sleep and regular 
as to exercise, but beyond that every minute was util- 
ized. She traveled scores of thousands of miles, spoke 
often several times a day, answered every letter, some 
twenty thousand a year.^^ She wasted no strength in 
worry or regret over lost opportunities. All the thought 
she gave to failure was to learn from it. "If it be 
ambitious to have no fear of failure in any undertak- 



FRANCES ELIZABETH WILLARD 209 

ing-, to that I must plead guilty. ... I frankly own 
that no position I have ever attained gave me a single 
perturbed or wakeful thought, nor could any that I 
would accept." ^^ 

Other gifts besides effort are needed, however, to 
ensure the triumph of a great cause. Whatever they 
may be. Miss Willard had them. There is the gift of 
organization, of combining great bodies of men and 
women together for a clearly defined purpose and mak- 
ing them work in unison till that purpose is achieved. 
When she was a child, she devised clubs and framed 
elaborate constitutions for them. When she became a 
woman, she did the same work, efficiently, rapidly, and 
with eminent success. 

And there is the gift of speech. So many great ideas 
and noble conceptions are lost in realization because the 
initiators of them cannot put them into adequate words 
and fire the world ; just as a fluent and admirable power 
of the tongue is too often given to those who have 
nothing behind it. Miss Willard's tongue had assuredly 
something behind it; but her power of expression was 
always ample, adequate, and either seductive or com- 
manding, as she wished. She herself knew well what 
this gift of eloquence was, and used it to the full, and 
cultivated it. " The spoken word, with a life and char- 



210 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 

acter back of it, the spoken word, sped home by earn- 
est voice, conversational tone, and punctuating gesture, 
is the final human factor in the progress of reform." ^* 
Yet all testimony shows that her speeches were not ora- 
torical, not rhetorical, not stuffed with formal figures 
or pompous trumpery. She went right to the heart, 
spoke as if her hearers were friends or brothers and 
sisters, unveiled her own feelings and experiences as 
if she were chatting at the fireside. "That was the 
most homey talk I ever heard," ^* said an old farmer, 
after listening to her with tears. 

This quality of simplicity in her. public utterance was 
immensely emphasized by her appearance and manner. 
There was nothing imposing or dominating about her; 
rather an impression of frankness, gentleness, sympa- 
thetic and insinuating grace. One of her admirers, in 
endeavoring to describe her, says that her features re- 
fuse " to be impressed separately in your memory. Only 
her smile and voice abide. She envelops you, perme- 
ates you, enfolds you."^^ The general suggestion of 
grace, of graciousness, recurs and is reiterated in all 
attempts to reproduce her charm. 

For she did charm. She charmed multitudes from 
the platform, made them, for the time at least, anxious 
to carry out her ideas and do her bidding. She charmed 



FRANCES ELIZABETH WILLARD 211 

individuals, took them in quiet corners and whispered 
to them some spell of conviction which sent them out 
into the world to try to make life over, as she would 
have it. She entered into other peoples' souls, put her- 
self in their places, saw the world as they saw it. There 
was a certain amount of theory about this attitude on 
her part. Tact, adaptation, adjustment, were all a mat- 
ter of principle with her. For a child to have been 
brought up on the " Letters of Lord Chesterfield " ^^ was 
no bad preparation for meeting the world, though one 
is rather surprised to find it on a Wisconsin farm. She 
preaches deference, courtesy, and consideration to 
everybody, no matter what their position in life. " Who 
says kind words to the man that blacks his boots, to 
the maid that makes his bed and sweeps his hearth ? . . . 
Oh, we forget these things ! " ^^ But with Miss Willard 
there was more to it than theory. She was interested 
in the lives of all men and women, curious about* them. 
"I am somewhat of a questioner," ^^ she says. She 
questioned everybody, and so got a peep into the heart. 
But back of the questioning were tenderness and sym- 
pathy and kindness, the desire not only to understand 
but to help, not only to analyze but to make over. And 
precisely in this combination of understanding with love 
lay her mighty power over men, the infinite tact which 



212 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 

enabled her to identify other wills with her own and 
so to persuade rather than to command for the achieve- 
ment of a great purpose. 

Even in her early days of teaching she formulated 
clearly the method that later obtained such vast results : 
"When you get them all to think alike and act alike 
by your command, you can do with them what you 
will."^^ But I prefer the testimony of a simple heart, 
which elucidates the whole point: "A poor seamstress 
said the other day : * I go to sew at Miss Willard's some- 
times. I see very little of her, scarcely hear her speak, 
but why is it I always leave there saying to myself: 
" I must be a better woman, I must indeed." ' " ^^ So the 
world said, when Miss Willard had done with it. 

This is not the place to attempt more than to sum- 
marize briefly what the fullness of Miss Willard's actual 
achievement was. It may be that her ardent admirers 
somewhat exaggerate it, as is natural. To say that in 
her work for American women " she has done more to 
enlarge our sympathies, widen our outlook, and develop 
our gifts, than any man, or any other woman of her 
time,"^^ is making a broad claim, though perhaps not 
too broad. It is, at any rate, certain that, as head of 
the Woman's Christian Temperance Union, she dimin- 
ished almost incalculably the sum of human misery, and 



FRANCES ELIZABETH WILLARD 213 

who would wish to have more said of them than that? 
One who knew her work well writes : " There are count- 
less men and women all over the world to-day living use- 
ful lives, filling positions of trust and responsibility, who 
owe to Frances Willard all that they are, because her 
word first aroused their dormant powers and gave them 
faith in themselves." ^^ It is a just and noble eulogy. 

Above all, in this year 1919, when, among a multi- 
tude of surprising and far-reaching events, few are 
more notable than the establishment of absolute prohi- 
bition in the United States of America, the name of 
Miss Willard deserves to be widely remembered 
and commemorated by her countrymen and country- 
women. 

Ill 

Yet I confess that I am even more interested in what 
prohibition did for Miss Willard than in what Miss 
Willarci did for prohibition. Here, again, let us con- 
sider the external influences first, and then follow them 
to their spiritual results. To begin with, take the praise, 
the eulogy, the idolatry almost, which were necessarily 
and naturally poured upon her during the last years 
of her life. " She has won a love and loyalty that no 
other woman, I think, has ever before possessed," says 



214 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 

her biographer.*^ It was immense, in any case. Huge 
audiences shouted and screamed with enthusiasm over 
her mere presence. Princes and potentates welcomed 
her; high functionaries bowed down to her; precious 
souls rescued from destruction hailed her as their 
savior. Children were named after her, so many that her 
secretary has to keep the record, — over one hundred, 
she says. No exuberance of praise seems excessive, 
and one adorer assures us that " Frances Willard lived, 
literally, the Christ-life on earth."** That "Hterally" 
is, I think, about as far as ecstasy can go. The mind 
that could not be affected by such treatment as this 
would indeed have something superhuman. 

And besides the influence of unlimited applause, there 
is what I may call the platform habit, the peculiar and 
unavoidable effect of appearing constantly before mul- 
titudes of people and exhibiting one's personality, one's 
soul to them, more or less unreservedly. Of course 
every preacher is exposed to this to some extent and 
few preachers wholly escape the consequences of it. 
But the ordinary preacher is limited in his audiences 
and constrained to forget himself to some extent in his 
holy calling. The lecturer, the political orator, and, 
most of all, the reformer and the revivalist, are almost 
always moulded by this habit of public appearance in 



FRANCES ELIZABETH WILLARD 215 

ways most curious to consider, and few have been ex- 
posed to the influence more overwhelmingly than Miss 
Willard. 

The platform instinct was born in her. At three or 
four years old she was set up on a chair to recite 
hymns, and enjoyed it. Of one favorite she says: 
"Mother taught me how to speak it, where to put in 
the volume of sound and the soft, repressed utterance, 
and as for the pathos I knew where to put that in my- 
self." ^^ She always knew. And this instinct is not 
one that loses anything with the process of time. As 
years went on, publicity became existence to her; she 
thought in public, as it were, and all her inner life was 
lived in the presence of her faithful followers. Do not 
take this as in any way contradicting what I have said 
above about her charm and about her simplicity. There 
is no incompatibility here. It was just because life in 
public was so natural and easy to her, because she faced 
it without shrinking and without embarrassment, that 
she was able to convey herself, all her enthusiasms and 
ideals, so directly to others. The stimulus of a crowd 
roused her to intenser thought and feeling, just as one 
sympathetic auditor rouses others of a different tem- 
perament. To her, vast numbers were just one sympa- 
thetic auditor. Hear how shrewd and vivid is her own 



2i6 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 

statement of this: "To me an audience is like a well- 
bred person, quiet, attentive, sympathetic, and, best of 
all, not in a position to answer back." ^^ 

And, as she felt the stimulus of an audience when it 
was before her, so she gradually came to carry one 
always in her mind, to feel that she was living before 
the vast audience of the world, and to put into every 
action the consciousness that it must be a lesson and 
an example. An amiable hostess thoughtlessly invites 
her to take a glass of wine when much fatigued. " The 
blood flushed in cheek and brow as I said to her, 
'Madam, two hundred thousand women would lose 
somewhat of their faith in humanity if I should drink a 
drop of wine.'"*^ Think what it must be to feel the 
eyes of two hundred thousand women fixed upon you 
from the time you wake till the time you sleep again. 
This is the way Miss Willard lived. 

Perhaps the most curious illustration of the sense of 
exemplariness is her " Autobiography." Here is a book 
of seven hundred closely printed pages, written by her- 
self about herself, to be given to the world in her own 
lifetime, and the publishers inform us frankly that she 
originally wrote twelve hundred pages that had to be 
cut down. Assuredly no one ever turned themselves 
inside out more absolutely for the improvement of a 



FRANCES ELIZABETH WILLARD 217 

hearkening world. And everywhere the necessity of 
setting an example is apparent. This becomes evident 
at once, when you compare the simple, natural journals 
of Miss Willard's youth with the carefully prepared 
matter of the later narrative. Of course nothing is 
false, nothing is misrepresented. Yet the consciousness 
of edification, the overwhelming nearness of the lecture 
platform, are everywhere present. 

Now let us analyze a little more fully the effect of 
this curious life upon the woman's soul. To begin with, 
in the immense work she had undertaken of making 
over the world by the power of speech, did she experi- 
ence alternations of hope and despair, enthusiasm and 
discouragement? Most men, and especially most 
women, one would think, would have had their hours 
of being exalted with the assured confidence of success, 
and hours again when blank depression would have 
made it seem as if they were beating at a stone wall. 
Symptoms of such depression may perhaps be detected 
in Miss Willard's "Autobiography," but I have looked 
for them curiously and I have found but few indeed. 
She had splendid health, she had an even temper, and 
she had an unfailing faculty of hope. If she had dark 
moments, she concealed them, perhaps out of considera- 
tion for the two hundred thousand. 



2i8 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 

I have also enjoyed probing the personal motives that 
lay behind her tremendous and constant effort, for she 
herself, in the seven hundred close pages, has invited 
such probing too earnestly for any one to resist it. We 
have already seen that she aimed to help mankind, — set 
out to do a noble work in the world, no doubt mainly 
for the sake of doing it. Her one sole aim, says her 
enthusiastic biographer, "has been to do the will of 
God as far as she knew it."^^ But to talk of the sole 
aim of any one is perilous. We are not made so neatly 
of one piece. Besides her large philanthropy. Miss 
Willard had a lot of healthy human ambition, just 
plain common desire to be admired and spoken well of 
and generally famous. She admits this herself very 
freely. "I have been called ambitious, and so I am, 
if to have had from childhood the sense of being born 
to a fate is an element of ambition." *^ She was keenly 
anxious to help on such fate also. In confessing her 
faults, she enumerates: "My chief besetments were, 
as I thought, a speculative mind, a hasty temper, a too 
ready tongue, and the purpose to be a celebrated per- 
son." ^^ She even confesses with admirable frankness 
that it hurt her to be excelled by others. "I have 
odious little 'inwardnesses' of discomfort when dis- 
tanced."'' 



FRANCES ELIZABETH WILLARD 219 

Her ambition was as wide as it was intense. Politics ? 
Oh, yes, certainly politics. "Next to a wish I had to 
be a saint some day," she tells an audience, "I really 
would like to be a politician." ^^ Literature ? In youth 
she feels an overpowering desire to utter great thoughts 
and emotions, which she can never quite put into words. 
And all her life the same desire haunted her, so that 
the immense realized glory of her public achievement 
was never thoroughly satisfying. She would have liked 
to write something that the future would have read and 
read forever. One curious passage from her "Auto- 
biography " is worth quoting at length, as an illustration 
of her mind and temper and also of her frankness of 
self-revelation: "Just here I will say, though it is not 
usual to reveal one's highest literary ambition, espe- 
cially when one has failed to attain it, that I am willing 
to admit that mine has been during the last thirty years 
to write for the ' Atlantic Monthly '!...! have writ- 
ten for 'Harper's' and had a letter in the 'Century,' 
but I have never yet dared offer one to the 'Atlantic' 
Once I went so far as to send its admired editor, 
Thomas Bailey Aldrich, a printed article that I thought 
tolerably good, that is for me, asking him if he believed 
I could write anything the ' Atlantic ' would accept. I 
received in reply a courteous note with the enigmatical 



220 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 

statement that he was unable to say from the article 
forwarded whether I could or not. The question in my 
mind is now and ever shall be, 'Is that a compliment 
to the article ? ' . . . But I give the cultured editor no- 
tice that though I may never be lifted to the Olympian 
heights of his pages, I intend so to live that somebody 
who is, shall yet write of me between those magic 
yellow covers of the Queen of Monthlies !" ^^ * 

Though she wrote vastly, it is hardly to be supposed 
that Miss Willard's literary reputation is likely to be 
permanent. It was in the very different field of im- 
mediate personal public triumph that she won successes 
huge enough to satisfy any ambition that could be satis- 
fied at all. It is of the nature of these triumphs that 
they caress and excite and stimulate the soul more than 
any others and the study of their effect upon Miss 
Willard is everywhere extremely curious. 

In other words, all through the immense length of 
her "Autobiography" I think we may perceive, cannot 
deny, a growing self-consciousness, which I would call 
vanity, if the word were not misleading. Do not sup- 
pose that this is inconsistent with power. Cicero was 
an enormous power in the world and' was one of the 
vainest of men. It would be folly to speak of Miss 

* It may be worth noting that with the appearance of this portrait in the 
Atlantic Miss Willard's wish was for the first time gratified. 



FRANCES ELIZABETH WILLARD 221 

Willard as vain in comparison with Cicero. Nor is the 
vanity inconsistent with an almost childlike simplicity. 
On the contrary, it seems to go with it naturally. It 
did with Cicero. It did with Miss Willard. Simplicity 
and a singular charm are not incompatible with vanity 
at alL Nevertheless, by force of endeavoring to live 
all one's life as an example one runs a little risk of 
coming to regard one's life as exemplary, and this 
danger Miss Willard did not altogether escape. This 
it is which leads her to expose her soul in page after 
page with such extraordinary frankness. She meant 
to do good, no doubt she might do good, and did do 
good; but one cannot wholly escape the impression of 
a naturally modest lady undressing in public. 

Of course through all the exposure and the stress 
upon precept there is a constant insistence upon humil- 
ity. And no one can question for a moment that the 
humility is genuine. When Miss Willard wrote in her 
youth: "I think myself not good, not gifted in any 
way. I cannot see why I should be loved, why I should 
hope for myself a beautiful and useful life or a glori- 
ous immortality at its close," ®^ she meant it. When 
she wrote in age, "I love too well the good words of 
the good concerning what I do; I have not the control 
of tongue and temper that I ought to have, . . . and 



222 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 

the sweet south wind of love has not yet thawed out 
the ice-cake of selfishness from my breast," ^^ she meant 
it also, even if she might have preferred saying it her- 
self to having any one else say it. Yet even in the 
humility the subtle and pervading influence of the ex- 
emplary life does make itself felt. I know few things 
more curious than Miss Willard's elaborate study of 
her own faults for the benefit of the public. After the 
most thorough and searching investigation, it would 
appear that she practically finds but two, and of those 
two one runs eminent risk of finally turning out to be 
a virtue. ^^ 

I do not mean, however, to overstress this element 
of self-consciousness in Miss Willard, which was en- 
tirely natural and almost unavoidable in the life she led. 
But, no matter what may have been the effects of that 
life upon her character, there can be no question but 
that she enjoyed it. She herself tells us so. She had 
magnificent health, cherished by intelligent care and 
enduring through a long course of years. " Painless, 
in a world of pain," ^"^ she says of herself, — and what a 
qualification that is for hearty enjoyment! She adds 
further the notable sentence already quoted : " The chief 
wonder of my life is that I dare to have so good a time, 
both physically, mentally and religiously."^^ A good 



FRANCES ELIZABETH WILLARD 223 

time she certainly did have. All the excitement of the 
ordinary public entertainer was hers, — the actor, the 
singer, the performer to huge audiences generally. 
Everywhere she could count upon an attentive hearing, 
usually upon an enthusiastic one; and if she had to 
battle to make it so, the battle, to her temperament, was 
almost as delightful as the victory. But to the general 
excitement of the stage and the platform was added 
the far greater excitement of conscious benevolent mo- 
tive. You were stirring all these crowds, winning all 
these plaudits, not for yourself, not for your personal 
glory, but for a great cause, — for the advancement 
of good in the world, to hasten the splendid coming of 
the kingdom of God. Perhaps the psychology of the 
philanthropist, of the reformer, of the evangelist has 
yet to be written with minute and analytical care, and 
he will never be the one to write it himself. But Miss 
Willard has supplied more curious information on the 
subject than any one else. 

Take the impressive and delightful incident, described 
by her and by others, of the attack on the Pittsburg 
saloon by a group of women, all standing in earnest, 
awed attention along the curbstone, while " a sorrowful 
old lady, whose only son had gone to ruin through that 
very deathtrap, knelt on the cold, moist pavement and 



224 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 

offered a broken-hearted prayer." ^^ No -doubt these 
are the things that move the world, but they also afford 
an interest beyond any other for those who take part 
in them. Miss Willard, with the best intentions, wished 
to deny to everybody the excitement of alcohol. But 
she herself lived on the fierce excitement of doing good, 
beside which all other stimulants are pale and watery. 

IV 

I HAVE thus emphasized the vast and varied enjoy- 
ment of Miss Willard's life, because so many of her 
admirers have called it a life of sacrifice. Of course 
she made sacrifices. Who does not? When she chose 
her philanthropic career, she gave up a prospect of 
assured ease and assured usefulness for a wild and 
stormy course which might lead nowhere. And at other 
times she gave up other things which were hard to 
relinquish. But to call her life a life of sacrifice in 
comparison with some other lives would be absurd. 
How many women go daily about city streets to relieve 
suffering, to comfort misery, to cherish fainting hope, 
without any thought of reward or any stimulus of glory, 
worn, weary, and discouraged, sacrificing everything to 
the sense of duty and the pressure of conscience ! How 
many women in far country homes live long lives of 



FRANCES ELIZABETH WILLARD 225 

utter monotony, drudging over ugly cares, with nothing 
but grumbhng and faultfinding about them, their habit 
of existence so in-woven with sacrifice that they cannot 
even imagine the possibility of anything else! Beside 
these how can any one talk of sacrifice in connection 
with Frances Elizabeth Willard? If she could have 
been convinced that she could bring the cause she served 
to immediate triumph by changing places with one of 
these women, I think so highly of her that I am sure 
she would have done it. But what ingenuity she would 
have shown in resisting the conviction ! 

Let me repeat, then, that she was a woman of noble 
character, of splendid and enduring power, one who 
left the world a legacy of accomplishment which is 
to-day maturing into the widest and most fruitful re- 
s-ults; but she was neither a martyr nor a saint, and, 
heavens, how she did enjoy herself ! 



VIII 
EMILY DICKINSON 



CHRONOLOGY 

Emily Dickinson 

Born in Amherst, Massachusetts, December lo, 1830. 

Lived in Amherst. 

Died in Amherst, May 15, 1886. 




EMILY DICKINSON 



VIII 
EMILY DICKINSON 

I 

One wHo, as a child, knew Emily Dickinson well and 
loved her much recollects her most vividly as a white, 
ethereal vision, stepping from her cloistral solitude 
onto the veranda, daintily unrolling a great length of 
carpet before her with her foot, strolling down to where 
the carpet ended among her flowers, then turning back 
and shutting herself out of the world. 

It is just so that we must think of her as coming into 
the larger world of thought. In the grimmest, austerest 
background of restrained New England habit and 
tradition in the mid-nineteenth century there suddenly 
opens a sunlit door and out steps, floats rather, this white 
spirit of wonder and grace and fancy and mockery, 
shakes folly's bells, swings worship's incense, and is gone 
before we have time to understand her coming. 

She, if any one, was in the world, but not of it, not 
even of the little world which was the only one she lived 
in. The atmosphere of a New England college town like 
Amherst is in itself secluded and peculiar with a clois-. 



230 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 

tered charm. Emily's family were secluded in their own 
souls, even from those who knew them well. Their 
home was secluded in quiet gravity and dignity. Out of 
this home, in her years of womanhood, Emily rarely 
stepped; out of Amherst more rarely still. So perfect 
was her shy isolation that it seems almost profane to 
disturb her in it. Yet I have a feeling that she would 
have wished us to. The shyest, the most isolated, are 
only waiting, even in their lives, for one to come whose 
loved approach shall shatter the isolation forever. If 
the isolation is never shattered, but grows closer and 
thicker, still I believe that it nurses the hope of a sym- 
pathetic, understanding eye that shall see into the most 
hidden corner of the soul. At any rate, Emily, from her 
solitude, speaks out to us in puzzling, teasing, witching 
accents, beckons us, dares us, as it were, to follow her, 
to seek her, unravel her mystery, lay a searching finger 
on her heart. Who can resist such a magical solicita- 
tion? She speaks to us in strange, chaotic verses, not 
so much verses as clots of fire, shreds of heaven, snatches 
of eternity. She speaks to us in letters, chaotic also, but 
perhaps more fit and helpful for our purpose of ap- 
proaching her than the poems. We will use the letters 
to advance with more humdrum steps and now and then 
get a flash of sudden illumination from the verses. 



EMILY DICKINSON 231 

To begin with, let me re-emphasize the shyness and 
isolation. She sought it, she loved it. Even in child- 
hood she left home with reluctance and returned with 
ecstasy. It was not because her inner life was dull and 
bounded, but because it was vast and wandering; and 
loved, common things were all that anchored her to 
herself. "Home," she says, "is the riddle of the wise 
— the booty of the dove." ^ 

She was well aware, of course, of the solitude she 
lived in. "Nothing has happened but loneliness," she 
writes to a friend, "perhaps too daily to relate."^ But 
you err much if you think the solitude was barren or 
empty. Light, bright thoughts swarmed in it, quick and 
eager fancies, wide desires, wider hopes, and endless 
laughter. 

She had books as companions. 

" Unto my books so good to turn 
Far ends of tired days." ^ 

To be sure, she was no student, no persistent, systematic 
reader, as Mrs. Ripley was. She would pick up and 
put down: a chapter or a page was enough for her, 
enough to kindle hope or quench ennui, if she ever felt 
any. But her immense capacity of being stimulated 
could not resist a book. She loved words, says her niece, 
Mrs. Bianchi; "the joy of mere words was to Aunt 



232 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 

Emily like red and yellow balls to the juggler." ^ How 
then could she fail to love the royal masters of words? 
Her father liked "lonely and rigorous books," she told 
Colonel Higginson, but she preferred them more grace- 
ful or touched with fire. After her first real one, she 
said to herself, " This, then, is a book, and there are more 
of them? " ^ When she found Shakespeare, she thought 
the world needed nothing else. 

She had the piano as a companion; played upon it 
gayly; turned common airs into wild, fantastic reveries, 
" One improvisation which she called the Devil was, by 
tradition, unparalleled."^ We may assume that she 
loved the other arts also, as well as music ; at least that 
they fed her fancy, though her life did not bring her near 
them. 

And nature was the friend of her secluded spirit. 
"You ask of my companions. Hills, sir, and the sun- 
down, and a dog as large as myself, that my father 
bought me." ^ Flowers and trees and birds and insects 
talked to her, and she to them, in that strange speech 
which they perhaps understood better than her human 
fellows. What the charm of this converse was she inti- 
mates to us in light, delicate touches : " We are having 
such lovely weather — the air is as sweet and still — now 
and then a gay leaf falling — the crickets sing all day 



EMILY DICKINSON 233 

long — high in the crimson tree a belated bird is sing- 
ing." ^ Or she can go behind this bare portrayal of the 
surface and bring out wayward glimpses of hidden feel- 
ing, vague and subtle hints of dim emotion such as 
flutter in all our spirits and are gone before we can 
define them. She can do this in verse : 

" There *s a! certain slant of light. 
On winter afternoons, 
That oppresses like the weight 
Of cathedral tunes." » 

She can do it even better, to my feeling, in prose : " Noth- 
ing is gone, dear, or no one that you knew. The forests 
are at home, the mountains intimate at night and arro- 
gant at noon. A lonesome fluency abroad, like sus- 
pended music." ^° 

From suggestions such as these it is evident that even 
if outside adjuncts failed her wholly, she had sufficient 
society in her own thoughts. She lived in a hurrying 
swarm of them, a cloud and tumult of manifold reflec- 
tions, which made the gross, material contact of daily 
human speech and gesture seem poor and common. She 
shut herself off in this silent hurly-burly as in an aristo- 
cratic garment of her own, " How do most people live 
without any thoughts?" she cried. "There are many 
people of the world — you must have noticed them in 



234 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 

the street — how they live? How do they get strength 
to put on their clothes in the morning? "^^ She herself 
put on in the morning a garment of scintillating radiance 
and only exchanged it at night for a lighter robe of 
gleaming stars. "In a life that stopped guessing you 
and I should not feel at home/' ^^ she says. She filled 
the universe with her guesses and then made comments 
on them that were more perplexing than the guesses 
were. Not that she was in any way a systematic thinker 
any more than reader. Heavens, no ! She could never 
have labored with the slow and ordered speculations of 
Mrs. Ripley. Sometimes she sets up a stable reign of 
goodness in the world, believes that things will be well 
with us and asserts it hopefully : " I 'm afraid we are all 
unworthy, yet we shall ' enter in.' " ^^ Sometimes she 
doubts, rebels even, wonders whether suffering has at 
all its due complement of loving, murmurs in wayward 
petulence, " It will never look kind to me that God, who 
causes all, denies such little wishes." ^* And always, to 
her probing guess, the world and life are veiled in mys- 
tery, and on the whole she is not ungrateful. " It is true 
that the unknown is the largest need of the intellect, 
though for it no one thinks to thank God." ^^ 

It was perhaps, then, dreams that were her playfellows 
rather than thoughts, at least thoughts broken, con- 



EMILY DICKINSON 235 

densed, abbreviated, intensified. No doubt she thought 
as she spoke and wrote, in gleams and figures, and her 
oddities of speech, though they may have been slightly 
emphasized by too much Carlyle and Browning; were, 
like her oddities of action, not affectations of manner, 
but real oddities, quaintnesses, inspired flashes of soul. 
She lived in a world of dreams, — dreams above her, 
dreams about her, dreams beneath her. Now and then, 
as we all do in our rarer moments of half-conscious 
somnolence, she rubs her eyes and asks herself of her 
conciition: "Sometimes I wonder if I ever dreamed — 
then if I 'm dreaming now, then if I always dreamed." ^^ 
But the eyes close again, and the dreams press more 
thickly, sweet phantoms that crowd and shudder into 
one another in the strange, disordered way dreams have. 
" The lawn is full of south and the odors tangle, and I 
hear to-day for the first [time] the river in the tree." ^'' 
She tries to clutch them, to stay their dim and fluttering 
passage : " I would eat evanescence slowly " ; ^^ but they 
quiver and fade an3 vanish,only to give place to others 
as fantastic and enchanting as themselves. 

Yet back of the dream playfellows there is one sub- 
stance that endures and never fails her, — God, set solid 
in the white, unchanging background of eternity. And 
I do not say that she had any dry, mental conviction 



2i6 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 

about these things. When mortal pangs come, they 
rend and tear her hope as they do others ' : 

" My life dosed twice before its close ; 
It yet remains to see 
If immortality unveil 

A third event to me, 
So huge, so hopeless to conceive, 
t As these that twice befell. 

Parting is all we know of heaven, 
And all we need of hell." " 

And I do not say that God was anything tangible to her, 
like her father in the next room. If He had been, she 
would not have found Him God, or loved Him when she 
had her father. In her quaint, wild way she even indi- 
cates that she loved God because He shunned society as 
she did. " They say that God is everywhere, and yet we 
always think of Him as somewhat of a recluse." ^° But 
God filled her solitude, God gave life and body to her 
dreams, God made evanescence stay with her, or turned 
evanescence into an all-sustaining, all-enfolding, all- 
satisfying duration, which made the vague, unquiet 
futility of common life not only bearable but lovely, even 
to her restless and inquiring spirit. 

Still, for all God and dreams, I would not wliolly cut 
off her image from humanities. " I often wonder how 
the love of Christ is done when that below holds so." ^^ 
That below held her. Let us see how. 



EMILY DICKINSON 237 

II 

In early life she would seem not to have avoided even 
general society. There are records of social gatherings, 
dances, varied merrymakings, in which she took a ready, 
gay, and active part, without any marked indication of 
undue withdrawal within herself. In her schooldays she 
was attractive and, if not exactly popular, could always 
use her wit and fun to draw listeners and lovers. As a 
young woman in Amherst, she did not wholly refuse 
herself to the conventional demancls of social inter- 
course, though it is evident that she yielded with protest 
and escaped with a sigh of relief : " We go out very little ; 
once in a month or two we both set sail in silks, touch at 
the principal points and then put into port again. Vinnie 
cruises about some to transact commerce, but coming to 
anchor is most I can do." ^^ The general kindness of the 
world, its chilly and Indifferent courtesy, its ready and 
empty acceptance and circulation of cordial nothings 
grated on her direct and poignant spirit. She would not 
endure the haggard necessities of parlor conversation. 
She was suspicious even of real sympathy from an un- 
authorized source: "Thank you for tenderness. I find 
that is the only food the Will takes now, — and that, not 
from general fingers." ^^ 



238 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 

But, on the other hand, she had her need of human 
affection, hke every one of us, hungered for it, starved 
for it at times. She wanted those she loved when she 
wanted them, wanted them as she wanted them, expected 
their devotion to her bidding, though she was so coy 
about doing theirs. When she said come, they were to 
come, and go, to go. If they did not, it vexed her : " I 
think I hemmed them faster for knowing you weren't 

coming, my fingers had nothing else to do Odd, that I, 

who say 'no' so much, cannot bear it from others."^* 
She well knew the bounds and limits of friendship; but 
perhaps she prized it all the more on that account. Her 
love was as abiding as it was elusive. Grasp it and it 
flitted away from you. Then it flitted back, like a deli- 
cate butterfly, and teased and tantalized your heart with 
quaint touches of tenderness, till you knew not whether 
to laugh or weep. " I hold you few I love, till my heart 
is red as February and purple as March," ^^ she murmurs 
in her strange idiom; and again she flings love wide 
beyond even the permanence of her own soul, " To live 
lasts always, but to love is finer than to live." ^® 

These things rather for outside friendship. As for 
her family, she clung to them with the close persistence 
of a warm burr, which pricks and sticks. She knew all 
their foibles, of which that stern New England house- 



EMILY DICKINSON 239 

hold had enough. She sets them out with the calmest 
realization, as a keen-sighted heart will, must : " Mother 
and Margaret are so kind, father as gentle as he knows 
how, and Vinnie good to me, but * cannot see why I don't 
get weir";^^ or in a more general, inimitable picture: 
" I have a brother and sister ; my mother does not care 
for thought, and father, too busy with his briefs to notice 
what we do. He buys me many books, but begs me not 
to rea3. them, because he fears they joggle the mind. 
They are religious, except me, and address an eclipse, 
every morning, whom they call their ' Father.' " ^^ Yet 
she loved them all, with a deep, devoted tenderness. Her 
mother comes to us mainly as a shadow figure, to be 
petted and spared and cared for. Her sister was a swift, 
practical personage, not too ready to enjoy Emily's 
vagaries, but trained to accept them. She swept and 
dusted and cooked, and tried sometimes to get a useful 
hand from her dreaming sister, — a useful hand, perhaps, 
when she got it; but I fancy she often wished she had 
not. Of the two brothers, Austen was Emily's favorite, 
or at least she looked up to him as she did to her father, 
a stern, august, impressive face and spirit. Intimate 
communion with such a one must have been difficult for 
anybody. Certainly Emily would not have looked for it 
nor expected it. But to touch that granite soul and feel 



240 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 

that it belonged to you, made life seem more solid and 
death less terrible. 

And the same was far truer of her father. Cer- 
tainly he never put his cheek or his heart against hers, 
never fondled her or caressed her. She would not 
have wished such things, would have resented them. 
"Father's real life and mine sometimes come into col- 
lision," she says, "but as yet escape unhurt." ^^ But she 
looked up to him, how she looked up to himr! Or rather, 
she was always looking up, and in doing so she found 
her father's face a marked signpost on the way to God. 

Yet she could not touch those she loved best, friends, 
or near, dear kinsfolk. None of us can, you say. To be 
sure ; but she knew it and most of us do not. She moved 
among her family and through their house like the 
ghostly shadow of a rare desire. The little needs and 
calls of domestic duty she detested, though she some- 
times took her part in them. Hear her wayward fancy 
describe that soul's pest, a household removal: "I can- 
not tell you how we moved. I had rather not remember. 
I believe-my * effects ' were brought in a bandbox, and the 
'deathless me,' on foot, not many moments after. I 
took at the time a memorandum of my several senses, 
and also of my hat and coat, and my best shoes — but 
it was lost in the melee, and I aim out with lanterns. 



EMILY DICKINSON 241 

looking for myself." ^^ The patient solicitude of nursing 
tenderness she gave no doubt most deftly and de- 
votedly, yet one feels its burden: "Mother's dear little 
wants so engross the time ... I hardly have said 
'Good-morning, mother,' when I hear myself saying, 
' Mother, good-night.' " ^^ 

But her isolation from these crying, crowding human 
realities about her went deeper than the mere irksome- 
ness of daily duty. The trouble was that they were not 
realities but shadows, as she herself was, even more. 
What was sure and reliable and eternal and beyond the 
touch of trouble, was solitude and loneliness, where she 
could forever regale herself with the infinite companion- 
ship of thought. These dear human perplexities flitted 
in unaccountably. Before you could adjust yourself to 
them, they were gone, and you were never quite certain 
whether they left love behind them or torment. " Perhaps 
death gave me awe for friends, striking sharp and early, 
for I held them since in a brittle love, of more alarm 
than peace." ^^ 

Then one wonders how it was with the greatest love 
of all, the love of sex for sex. Did it help her or hurt 
her or ever come near her ? That she was fitted to draw 
the love of men is clear enough. She was strangely, 
puzzlingly beauti'f ul. It was not an every-day, peach and 



242 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 

cream, ballroom beauty. She teased and startled witH 
her face as with her soul. Her piercing, disconcerting 
eyes; her rich, gleaming, gold-auburn hair; her white, 
fragile, ever-stirring, questioning hands; her move- 
ments, light and wafted as the movements of a dream, 
— all these must have tormented men's hearts as the 
wild suggestion of her words did. We know that she 
had lovers in the early days, when the world touched 
her; and the memory of her fairy charm must have 
haunted many who never thought of spoken love. But 
how was she herself affected? Did she return the love 
that came to her, or long to return it, or have a girl's 
visions of what it might be if it came in all its glory 
and were returned? The record of these things is dim 
and vague. In her early youth she looks forward, mock- 
ingly, to lovers, and expects to be the belle of Amherst 
when she reaches her seventeenth year. "Then how I 
shall delight to make them await my bidding, and with 
what delight shall I witness their suspense while I make 
my final decision." ^^ Later love calls her to a rapturous 
hour, though duty forbids and she overcomes the tempta- 
tion, — " not a glorious victory, where yoti hear the roll- 
ing drum, but a kind of helpless victory, where triumph 
would come of itself, faintest music, weary soldiers, nor 
a waving flag, nor a long, loud shout." ^* And through 



EMILY DICKINSON 243 

the letters and through the poems there breathes often 
the faint, poignant perfume of love, flickers the way- 
ward, purple flame of love, — love questioning, love ex- 
ultant, love despairing, at once immortal and impossible. 

But who could realize Emily at the head of a house- 
hold, a calm, buxom matron, providing her husband's 
dinner and ordering the domestic duties ? As well yoke 
a wood-nymph to the plough. And children — doubt- 
less she loved children, the children of others, played 
with them, laughed with them, wept with them. Per- 
haps children of her own would have been hardly envia- 
ble. She was made to dream of all these things, to step 
for a moment into the tumult of others' tears and 
laughter, always with the protecting carpet daintily un- 
rolled before her feet, then to vanish quietly, visionlike, 
back into the blue void, her own inner region, where 
there was still that colossal, constant companion, God, 
and the echoing silence of eternity. 

And if love did not often tempt her out of this soli- 
tude, did conscience sometimes urge her out? Did she 
feel that the world needed her, that there were deeds to 
be done and fights to be won ? Did she suffer from that 
restless, haunting desire of action which so many of us 
misread and call by fine names, but which more or less 
overrides almost all of us with its impetuous tyranny? 



244 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 

She perhaps as little as any. But I seem to catch at least 
some understanding of it in the exquisite, tender solici- 
tation to a doubting heart : " All we are strangers, dear, 
the world is not acquainted with us, because we are not 
acquainted with her; and pilgrims. Do you hesitate? 
And soldiers, oft — some of us victors, but those I do 
not see to-night, owing to the smoke. We are hungry, 
and thirsty, sometimes, we are barefoot and cold — 
will you still come ? " ^^ But the smoke and the soldiers 
and the fighting were mostly drowned in quiet — for 

her. 

Ill 

Do not, however, for a moment suppose that because 
her feet were quiet her mind was, that because she re- 
fused to live in the casual world herself she was not 
interested in the casual life of others. On the contrary, 
do we not know that these solitary, passionate recluses 
live all life over in their windowed cells, that it is the 
wild abundance of other lives in their rioting imagina- 
tions that makes all possible adventures of their own 
seem tame and frigid ? Do we not know old Burton, who 
sucked strange melancholy from the confused chaos 
that rumbled about him, whose dear delight was to turn 
from his thumbed folios to the loud, profane quarreling 
of bargemen by the riverside? Do we not know Flau- 



EMILY DICKINSON 245 

bert, who shut himself up in his ivory tower, only to lean 
from his window in the moonlight and hear the dim 
revelry and causeless laughter of the children of men? 
So Emily. The action she dreamed of was too vast for 
the poor, trammeled limits of this world. But she found 
an absorbed pleasure in watching this world's stumbling, 
struggling labors, all the same. It was not so much con- 
crete facts, not the contemporary history which seems 
all-important to those who are making it and mainly 
dies when they do. Politics? Emily cannot fix her 
thoughts on politics. "Won't you please tell me when 
you answer my letter who the candidate for President 
is ? . . . I don't know anything more about affairs in the 
world than if I were in a trance." ^^ But human passion, 
human love, human hope, and human despair, these ab- 
sorb her, these distract her, with an inexhaustible inter- 
est. She feels them in the touch of human hands and 
reads them in human faces : 

" I like a look of agony, 
Because I know it 's true ; 
Men do not sham convulsion. 
Nor simulate a throe." ^^ 

The thrill of life, its glitter, its color, her eyes and her 
thoughts were awake for them always : " Friday I tasted 
life. It was a vast morsel. A circus passed the house 



246 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 

— still I feel the red in my mind though the drums are 
out"^« 

This vivid sense of the intensity, the ardor, the emo- 
tional possibility of things, filled her with passion so 
overwhelming that it could not be expressed directly. 
Words were inadequate, and she was obliged to take 
refuge in jest, mockery, fantastic whim, which merely 
deepen the message of underlying feeling for those who 
understand. She was own sister to Charles Lamb in 
this, — Lamb in whom tears were so close to laughter 
and the most apparently wanton jesting the cover for a 
tortured heart. It seems at moments as if Emily mocked 
everything. She sits idly on the stile in the sunshine 
and lets the great circus of the world pass by her, 
riddling its vain parade with shafts of dainty laughter. 
She is simple, she says, childish, she says, plays all day 
with trifles, regardless of the mad doings of real men and 
women. " As simple as you please, the simplest sort of 
simple — I '11 be a little ninny, a little pussy catty, a little 
Red Riding Hood ; I '11 wear a bee in my bonnet, and a 
rosebud in my hair, and what remains to do you shall be 
told hereafter." 3« 

She carried the screen of whim not only into verbal 
mockery, but into strange fancies of capricious action, 
tricks of Puck and Ariel, which amazed and delighted 



EMILY DICKINSON 247 

children and simple hearts, but annoyed and' discon- 
certed the grave, staid, older children who had never 
grown up to real childishness. She would drop kittens 
to drown in g, pickle jar and shudder with scared glee 
when they were served up on the hospitable table to a 
visiting judge. ^^ She would say to another grave judge, 
as Falstaff might have, when the plum-pudding was 
lighted : " Oh, sir, may one eat of hell fire with impunity 
here? " *^ And in all these fantastic tricks there was no 
affectation, though some thought so who did not under- 
stand, no affectation in the sense of a conscious effort to 
impress or astonish. There was no vagary of the wit- 
less. It was simply the direct impression of a great', 
strange world in a heart which could not grasp it and 
strove to, and gave right back the bewitching oddities it 
founH. 

And if this surface of confusing eccentricity 
might be thought to imply a callous or even cruel 
indifference to what others took with enormous and 
bewildered seriousness, it must be repeated and insisted 
that, as with Lamb, the eccentricity was a mere mask 
for the most complete and sensitive sympathy, extending 
often to pity and tears. She was a sister of Lamb. She 
w^as also a sister of those most delicate creatures of the 
whole world's imagination, the clowns of Shakespeare; 



248 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 

and if Touchstone and Feste could not surpass her in 

exquisite fooHng, she was equally akin to the tragic 

tenderness of the clown in "Lear." It needed all the 

gayety and all the trifling and all the mad songs to keep 

down the waves of sorrow that would surge upward in 

her spirit, and at times not all would do. " If we can get 

our hearts 'under/ I don't have much to fear — I've 

got all but three feelings down, if I can only keep 
them! "^2 

So, in the effort to explain or forget she mocked at 
all the grave and busy problems of the world. Love? 
A divine, unrealizable dream, so tantalizing in its witch- 
ery that one could not but make a tender jest of it. 
Money ? Possessions ? Oh, the solid, evanescent things ! 
The foundations of our souls rest on them and they 
slip away and leave us weltering. We must make a 
jest of them too. "You know I should expire of mor- 
tification to have our rye-field mortgaged, to say noth- 
ing of its falling into the merciless hands of a loco ! " ^^ 
And the busy people of the world, the grave, substan- 
tial, active, useful people. She is not useful, and she 
knows it and deplores it. Yet, deploring her own in- 
activity, she cannot go without her jest at the others: 

"L goes to Sunderland, Wednesday, for a minute 

or two; leaves here at half-past six — what a fitting 



EMILY DICKINSON 249 

hour — and will breakfast the night before; such a 
smart atmosphere! The trees stand right up straight 
when they hear her boots, and will bear crockery wares 
instead of fruit, I fear." *^ And again she sums up this 
mighty buzz and hum of the achieving world — or the 
world that dreams it is achieving — with the image 
of a circus, probably the most vivid form of vain 
activity that came under her touch: "There is circus 
here, and farmers' Commencement, and boys and girls 
from Tripoli, and governors and swords parade the 
summer streets. They lean upon the fence that 
guards the quiet church ground, and jar the grass row, 
warm and soft as a tropic nest."*^ Or a briefer 
word gives the same vast — to staid souls how hor- 
rifying! — lesson to a child: "I am glad it is your 
birthday. It is this little bouquet's birthday too. Its 
Father is a very old man by the name of Nature, whom 
you never saw. Be sure to live in vain, dear. I wish 
Ihad."^^ 

And if she could mock the most serious things of this 
world, do not suppose that she had the slightest hesita- 
tion about mocking another. Eternity was so near her 
always that she treated it as familiarly as her brothers 
and sisters, and to step out of the wide-open door of 
death seemed far less of an adventure than to step out 



250 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 

of the grim, closed front door into the streets of Am- 
herst. Ill-health, whether as the prelude to death or 
as the torment of life, she could touch lightly. In 
strangers she could trifle with it: "Mrs. S. is very 
feeble; 'can't bear allopathic treatment, can't have 
homoeopathic, don't want hydropathic,' oh, what a pickle 
she is in! " *^ In her own family she takes it as easily: 
" We are sick hardly ever at home, and don't know what 
to do when it comes, — wrinkle our little brows, and 
stamp with our little feet, and our tiny souls get angry, 
and command it to go away." *^ When the blow struck 
herself, she may have writhed, but we have nothing to 
show it. There is the same mockery to wave it aside: 
"My head aches a little, and my heart a little more, 
so taking me collectively, I seem quite miserable; but 
I'll give you the sunny corners, and you mustn't look 
at the shade." ^® 

Religion, formal religion, Sunday religion, the reli- 
gion of staid worship and rock-bound creeds, she takes 
as airily, with as astonishing whiffs of indifference, not 
to say irreverence. If a phrase of scripture, even the 
most sacred, fits a jest, she takes it. If a solemn piece 
of starched emptiness in the pulpit ruffles her nice and 
tender spirit, she does not hesitate to turn him into 
delicate and cutting ridicule. Faith, she says, oh, yes, 



EMILY DICKINSON 251 

faith, how august, how venerable! "We dignify our 

faith when we can cross the ocean with it, though most 

prefer ships." ^*^ A revival comes to town. I have no 

doubt its deeper side stirred her whole soul. But this 

she cannot put into adequate speech, and instead: 

"There is that which is called an 'awakening' in the 

church, and I know of no choicer ecstasy than to see 

Mrs. roll out in crape every morning, I suppose 

to intimidate antichrist; at least it would have that 

effect on me."^^ 

Even her most intimate friend, her comforter and 

consoler, her everlasting solace, God, is treated with 

such light ease as an intimate friend would be. We 

have seen that every morning her family prayed to an 

eclipse whom they called their Father. Elsewhere the 

tone is just the same: "If prayers had any answers 

to them, you were all here to-night, but I seek and I 

don't find, and knock and it is not opened. Wonder if 

God is just — presume He is, however, and 'twas only 

a blunder of Matthew's." ^^ Or, take much the same 

thing, in apparently more solemn form, but really as 

daring as Omar Khayyam : 

" ' Heavenly Father/ take to thee 
The supreme iniquity, 
Fashioned by thy candid hand 
In a moment contraband. 



252 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 

Though to trust us seem to us 
More respectful — ' we are dust.' 
We apologize to thee 
For thine own duplicity." ^^ 

I quote verse here to show that every phase of 
Emily's thought and character could be illustrated from 
her poems as well as from her letters. Criticism of 
the poems as such is not within the limits of my pur^ 
pose. Yet even the most abstract literary criticism of 
a writer's works usually serves to give some clue to 
the writer's mind. And doubtless the puzzling inco- 
herency and complexity of Emily's versicles, the wild 
vagary of her rhythm and rhyme, express the inner 
workings of her spirit, as Milton's majestic diction and 
movement imply the ample grandeur of his soul. Com- 
mon words come from common lips and rare from 
rare, and if the rareness verges on oddity in utterance 
there is oddity in the spirit too. At any rate, it is in- 
disputable that every trait I have been working out in 
Emily's letters could be found in the poems, also, only 
more obscure, more veiled, more dubious, more mys- 
tical. The love of friends is there and the search for 
them and the hopeless impossibility of touching them. 
The longing for love is there, all its mystery, its ravish- 
ing revelations and its burden. The intense joy of life 
is there; its vivid color, its movement, its sparkle, its 



EMILY DICKINSON 253 

merriment, its absurdity. There, too, is the turning 
away from it with vast relief, quiet, solitude, peace, 
eternity, and God. 

It will be asked whether, in writing her vast number 
of little verses, Emily had any definite idea of literary 
ambition, of success and glory. Certainly she made no 
direct effort for anything of the kind. Only three or 
four poems were printed during her lifetime, and those 
with extreme reluctance on her part. Her verses were 
scattered through brief letters, tossed off with apparent 
indifference and evident disregard of finish. In the 
main, they must have been rather a form of intense, 
instinctive expression than a conscious attempt to catch 
the thoughts and admiration of men. She herself says : 
"When a sudden light on orchards, or a new fashion 
in the wind troubled my attention, I felt a palsy here, 
the verses just relieve." ^^ It is true that there are 
occasional suggestions of literary interest. This is 
sometimes implied in her intercourse with Colonel 
Higginson, though I cannot but feel that her corre- 
spondence with the good colonel contains more attitude 
than her other letters, and she certainly played with 
him a little. Further, the verses which introduce the 
first volume of poems are definitely in the nature of 
an author's apology: 



254 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 

" This is my letter to the world, 
That never wrote to me." 

Nevertheless, we are safe in saying that few authors 
have left permanent work with so little conscious pre- 
occupation of authorship. 

IV 

And so we are brought back to her one great preoccu- 
pation with the inner life and God and eternity; for 
eternity rings through every thought of her, like a deep 
and solemn bell, monotonous, if its surface echoes were 
not broken into such wild and varied music. Change? 
She appreciates change, no one more keenly, its glory 
and its horror. " No part of mind is permanent. This 
startles the happy, but it assists the sad." ^^ Rest? She 
appreciates rest, if in this world there were such a 
thing. Love ''makes but one mistake, it tells us it is 
'rest' — perhaps its toil is rest, but what we have not 
known we shall know again, that divine 'again' for 
which we are all breathless."^® But change and toil 
and love and agony, all she forgets in that divine per- 
manence, from which her soul cannot escape and does 
not desire to. 

" As all the heavens were a bell, 
And Being but an ear, 
And I and silence some strange race. 
Wrecked, solitary, here."°^ 



EMILY DICKINSON 255 

Or, again, in prose, even more simple and overwhelm- 
ing: "I cannot tell how Eternity seems. It sweeps 
around me like a sea." ^^ 

Let no one say that this inner absorption, this dwell- 
ing with God and with that which abideth, is selfish. 
Many will say so. And what lives do they lead them- 
selves ? Lives of empty bustle, of greedy haste, of futile 
activity and eagerness. Lives, no doubt, also of wide 
usefulness and deep human sacrifice; but these are not 
the most ready to accuse others. And too often broad 
social contact and a constant movement out of doors 
are but symptoms of emptiness, of hatred of solitude, 
of an underlying fear of one's self and of being left 
alone with God. 

Who shall say that such a quiet, self-contained, self- 
filling life as Emily Dickinson's, with its contagion 
of eternity spreading ineffably from soul to soul, is 
not in the end as useful for example and accomplish- 
ment as the buzz existence of Mrs. Stowe or Frances 
Willard? 

It is true that some who watched her thought her 
selfish in minor matters. She was exacting with her 
family, made hard demands and expected to have them 
satisfied. But this was a detail. In her larger life she 
forgot self altogether, or rather, she made self as wide 



256 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 

as heaven, till all loves and all hates and all men and 
all God were included in it. And note that she did not 
fly the world for her own purposes. She had no aim 
of long ambition to work out in solitude. She did not 
trouble with self-culture, did not buttress thought upon 
the vast security of books and learning, as did Mrs. 
Ripley. She just sat quiet, with the doors of her spirit 
open, and let God come to her. And even that celes- 
tial coming did not make her restless. She had not 
Mary Lyon's longing to bring God to others. She did 
not share Frances Willard's passionate cry, "tell every 
one to be good." If God had desired men to be good. 
He would have made them so. If God's world needed 
mending, let Him mend it. She knew well enough He 
could, if He wished. Why should she vex her soul 
with trifles? For to her was not the real unreal and 
the unreal real ? 

So I see her last as I saw her first, standing, all 
white, at her balcony window, ready to float downward 
upon her unrolled carpet into the wide garden of the 
world, holding eternity clutched tight in one hand and 
from the other dropping with idle grace those flower 
joys of life which the grosser herd of us run after so 
madly. And I hear her brothers, the clowns of Shake- 
speare, singing: 



EMILY DICKINSON 257 

When that I was and a little, tiny boy, 
With heigh-ho, the wind and the rain, 

A little thing was all my joy. 

For the rain it raineth every day. 

When that I had and a little, tiny wit, 
With heigh-ho, the wind and the rain, 

I made content with my fortunes fit. 
For the rain it raineth every day." ^^ 



THE END 



NOTES 



TITLES OF BOOKS MOST FREQUENTLY CITED 
SHOWING ABBREVIATIONS USED 



Adams, Abigail — Letters, 2 vols. 

Adams, Abigail — Familiar Letters. 

Bianchi, Martha Dickinson — Selections from 
the unpublished letters of Emily Dickin- 
son to her brother's family, in the Atlan- 
tic Monthly, vol. cxv, p. 35. 

Cheney, Ednah Dow — Reminiscences. 

Cheney, Ednah Dow — Louisa May Alcott, 
Her Life, Letters, and Journals, edited by 
Ednah D. Cheney. 

Dickinson, Emily — Letters of Emily Dick- 
inson, edited by Mabel Loomis Todd, in 
2 vols. 

Dickinson, Emily — Poems, First, Second 
and Third Series. 

Dickinson, Emily — The Single Hound. 

Fields, Annie — Life and Letters of Harriet 
Beecher Stowe. 

Fisk, Fidelia — Recollections of Mary Lyon, 
with Selections from her Instructions to 
the Pupils in Mount Holyoke Female 
Seminary. 

Fuller, Sarah Margaret — Love Letters. 

Fuller, Sarah Margaret — Memoirs, 2 vols, 

Gilchrist, Beth Bradford — Life of Mary 
Lyon. 

Gordon, Anna A. — The Beautiful Life of 
Frances E. Willard. 

Higginson, Thomas Wentworth — Margaret 
Fuller Ossoli. 

Hitchcock, Edward — The Power of Chris- 
tian Benevolence illustrated in the Life 
and Labors of Mary Lyon. 

Manuscript in Boston Public Library. 

Reminiscences of Mary Lyon by her Pupils 
— Manuscript in Mount Holyoke Library. 



Letters. 
Familiar Letters. 



Mrs. Bianchi. 
Mrs. Cheney — Rem. 



Mrs. Cheney. 



Letters. 

Poems, I, II, III. 
The Single Hound. 

Mrs. Fields. 



Miss Fisk. 
Love Letters. 
Memoirs. 

Miss Gilchrist. 

Life. 



H 



iSfSfmson. 



Hitchcock. 
MS., B. P. L. 

Reminiscences. 



262 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 

Stowe, Charles E. — The Life of Harriet 
Beecher Stowe. Stowe. 

Stowe, Charles E. and Lyman ^. — Harriet 
Beecher Stowe. Stowe and Stowe. 

Willard, Frances E. — Gimpses of Fifty 

Years. Glimpses. 



NOTES 



CHAPTER I: ABIGAIL ADAMS 



1. Letters, vol. ii, p. 29. 31. 

2. Familiar Letters, p. 182. 

3. Familiar Letters, p. 126. 32. 

4. Letters, vol. i, p. 187. 33. 

5. Letters, vol. 11, p. 269. 34. 

6. Letters, vol. 11, p. 265. 35. 

7. Letters, vol. i, p. 185. 36. 

8. Familiar Letters, p. 26. 37. 

9. Letters, vol. 11, p. 219. 38. 

10. Familiar Letters, p. 159. 39. 

11. Familiar Letters, p. 355. 40. 

12. John Quincy Adams, Memoirs, 41. 

vol. IV, p. 155. 42. 

13. John Quincy Adams, Memoirs, 43- 

vol. IV, p. 157. 44. 

14. John Quincy Adams, Memoirs, 45- 

vol. XI, p. 400. 

15. Abigail Adams (Smith), /oMrno/ 46. 

and Correspondence, p. 215. 47> 

16. Letters, vol. 11, p. 56. 48. 

17. Letters, vol. 11, p. 186. 49- 

18. Familiar Letters, p. 64. SO- 

19. Familiar Letters, p. 351. 51. 

20. Familiar Letters, p. 253. 

21. Familiar Letters, p. 368. 52. 

22. Familiar Letters, p. 125. 53. 

23. Familiar Letters, p. 179. 

24. Familiar Letters, preface, p. 54. 

xxvii. 55. 

25. Familiar Letters, p. 244. 

26. Warren-Adams Letters, vol. i, s6. 

p. 19. 57. 

27. Familiar Letters, p. 122. 

28. Familiar Letters, p. 150. 58. 

29. Letters, vol, 11, p. 229. 59. 

30. Letters, vol. 11, p. 271. 60. 



Abigail Adams (Smith), Journal 

and Correspondence, p. 216. 
Letters, vol. 11, p. 16. 
Letters, vol. 11, p. 5. 
Familiar Letters, p. 310. 
Familiar Letters, p. 10. 
Familiar Letters, p. 130. 
Familiar Letters, p. 361. 
Letters, voL 11, p. 264. 
Familiar Letters, p. 53. 
Familiar Letters, p. 69. 
Familiar Letters, p. 52. 
Familiar Letters, p. 384. 
Familiar Letters, p. 309, 
Familiar Letters, p. 138. 
Abigail Adams (Smith), /oMrwa/ 

owd Correspondence, p. 223. 
Familiar Letters, p. 42. 
Familiar Letters, p. 91. 
Familiar Letters, p. 229. 
Familiar Letters, p. 47. 
Familiar Letters, p. 214. 
John Adams, Works, vol. x, 

p. 220. 
Familiar Letters, p. 397. 
John Adams, Works, vol. ni, 

p. 418. 
Familiar Letters, p. 121. 
Abigail Adams (Smith), /ownza/ 

ond Correspondence, p. 246. 
Letters, vol. 11, p. 235. 
Abigail Adams (Smith), /ohhui/ 

and Correspondence, p. 237. 
Works (Ford), vol. v, p. 14. 
Letters, vol. 11, p. 253. 
Familiar Letters, p. 115. 



264 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 



61. Familiar Letters, p. 367. 

62. Familiar Letters, p. 358. 

63. Familiar Letters, p. 343. 



64. Familiar Letters, p. 201. 

65. Familiar Letters, p. 79. 

66. Familiar Letters, p. 411. 



CHAPTER II: SARAH ALDEN RIPLEY 

With trifling exceptions, the quotations used in the portrait of Mrs. Ripley 
are taken either from manuscript sources or from the comparatively brief 
sketch of her by Miss Elizabeth Hoar, printed in Worthy Women of Our 
First Century, Philadelphia, 1888. 



CHAPTER III: MARY LYON 



1. 


Miss Gilchrist, p. 32. 


29. 


Miss. Gilchrist, p. 391. 


2. 


Miss Gilchrist, p. 29. 


30. 


Miss Gilchrist, p. 150. 


3- 


Miss Gilchrist, p. 59. 


31. 


Miss Fisk, p. 153. 


4. 


Miss Gilchrist, p. 313. 


32. 


Miss Gilchrist, p. 316. 


5. 


Miss Gilchrist, p. 54. 


32- 


Hitchcock, p. 75. 


6. 


Miss Gilchrist, p. 123. 


34- 


Miss Gilchrist, p. 133. 


7. 


Miss Gilchrist, p. 82. 


35- 


Reminiscences, p. 80. 


8. 


Miss Gilchrist, p. 120. 


36. 


Miss Gilchrist, p. 150. 


9- 


Hitchcock, p. 172. 


27- 


MS., letter, Mt. Holyoke Col- 


10. 


Miss Gilchrist, p. 203. 




lege Library. 


II. 


Miss Gilchrist, p. 217. 


38. 


Reminiscences, p. 157. 


12. 


Miss Gilchrist, p. 227. 


39. 


Miss Gilchrist, p. 375. 


13. 


Miss Gilchrist, p. 232. 


40. 


Miss Gilchrist, p. 134. 


14. 


Miss Gilchrist, p. 247. 


41. 


Miss Fisk, p. 327. 


15. 


Hitchcock, p. 246. 


42. 


Reminiscences, p. 166, 


16. 


Miss Gilchrist, p. 232. 


43- 


Reminiscences, p. 42. 


I/- 


Miss Gilchrist, p. 240. 


44. 


Miss Fisk, p. 328. 


18. 


Miss Gilchrist, p. 234. 


45- 


Ibid. 


19. 


Miss Gilchrist, p. 235. 


46. 


Hitchcock, p. 284. 


20. 


Miss Gilchrist, p. 232. 


47. 


Miss Gilchrist, p. 86. 


21. 


Miss Gilchrist, p. 241. 


48. 


Miss Gilchrist, p. 127. 


22. 


Miss Gilchrist, p. 342. 


49. 


Miss Gilchrist, p. 389. 


23- 


Hitchcock, p. 87. 


50. 


Miss Gilchrist, p. 115. 


24. 


Miss Gilchrist, p. 248. 


51. 


Miss Gilchrist, p. 116. 


23. 


Miss Gilchrist, p. 314. 


52. 


Miss Gilchrist, p. 82. 


26. 


Miss Gilchrist, p. 316. 


53. 


Miss Fisk, p. 331. 


27. 


Reminiscences, p. 42. 


54. 


Miss Gilchrist, p. 90. 


28. 


Hitchcock, p. 144, 


55. 


Miss Gilchrist, p. 292. 



NOTES 



26: 



56. Hitchcock, p. IT. 

57. Reminiscences, p. 168. 

58. Miss Gilchrist, p. 198. 

59. Hitchcock, p. 103. 

60. Hitchcock, p. 81. 

61. Hitchcock, p, 44. 

62. Hitchcock, p. 80. 
61. Hitchcock, p. 389. 

64. Hitchcock, p. 331. 

65. Reminiscences, p. 40. 



66. Miss Fisk, p. 236. 

67. Miss Fisk, p. 319. 

68. Hitchcock, p. 154. 

69. Hitchcock, p. 155. 

70. Miss Fisk, p. 325. 

71. Miss Gilchrist, p. 320. 

72. Hitchcock, p. 120. 

73. Hitchcock, p. 83. 

74. Miss Gilchrist, p. 129. 



CHAPTER IV: HARRIET BEECHER STOWE 

References for pages of Mrs. Stowe's own works are to Riverside edition, 
unless otherwise specified. 

Mrs. Fields, p. 290. 

Stowe, p. 400. 

E. S. Phelps, in McClure's 

Magazine, vol. vii, p. 7. 
Mrs. Fields, p. 90. 
Mrs. Fields, p. 311. 
Mrs. Fields, p. 146. 
Mrs. Fields, p. 327. 
Mrs. Fields, p. 26. 
Mrs. Fields, p. 49. 
Stowe and Stowe, p. 59. 
Mrs. Fields, p. 30. 
Stowe and Stowe, p. 166. 
Stowe and Stowe, p. 179. 
Mrs. Fields, p. 250. 
Mrs. Fields, p. 185. 
Stowe and Stowe, p. 256. 
Sunny Memories, vol. 11, p. 47, 

edition 1854. 
Mrs. Fields, p. 40. 
Stowe and Stowe, p. 7. 
Mrs. Fields, p. 341. 
Sunny Memories, vol. 11, p. 392, 

edition 1854. 
Sunny Memories, vol. i, p. 281, 

edition 1854. 



I. 


Mrs. Fields, p. 92. 


27. 


2. 


Mrs. Fields, p. 69. 


28. 


3. 


Stowe and Stowe, p. 77. 


29. 


4. 


Mrs. Fields, p. 113. 




5- 


Mrs. Fields, p. 124. 


30. 


6. 


Mrs. Fields, p. 115. 


31- 


7- 


Mrs. Fields, p. 248. 


22- 


8. 


Mrs. Fields, p. 114. 


Z2,- 


9. 


Mrs. Fields, p. 70. 


34. 


10. 


Mrs. Fields, p. 74. 


35- 


II. 


Mrs. Fields, p. 364. 


36. 


12. 


Mrs. Fields, p. 72. 


37- 


13- 


Minister's Wooing, p. 284. 


38. 


14. 


Mrs. Fields, p. 97. 


39. 


15. 


Stowe, p. 40. 


40. 


16. 


Mrs. Fields, p. 91. 


41. 


17. 


Oldtown Folks, vol. i, p. 29. 


42. 


18. 


Oldtown Folks, vol. 11, p. 54. 


43. 


19. 


Stowe and Stowe, p. 59. 




20. 


Mrs. Fields, p. 81. 


44. 


21. 


Mrs. Fields, p. 51. 


45- 


22. 


Mrs. Fields, p. 68. 


46. 


23. 


Mrs. Fields, p. 82. 


47- 


24. 


Mrs. Fields, p. 29. 




25. 


Stowe, p. 58. 


48. 


26. 


Footsteps of the Master, p. 80. 





266 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 



CHAPTER V: MARGARET FULLER OSSOLI 



9. 

10. 

II. 

12. 

13- 

14. 

15. 
16. 

17. 
18. 

19. 
20. 
21. 
22. 
23. 
24. 

25- 

26. 

27. 
28. 

29. 
30. 
31. 
32. 
33. 
34. 

35. 
36. 



Mrs. Cheney, Rem., p. 193. 

Memoirs, vol. i, p. 202. 

Memoirs, vol. i, p. 229. 

Higginson, p. il. 

Memoirs, vol. i, p. 65. 

James Russell Lowell, Letters, 

vol. I, p. 128. 
Higginson, p. 209. 
Love Letters, p. 20. 
Memoirs, vol. i, p. 234. 
Higginson, p. 117. 
Higginson, p. 303. 
Memoirs, vol. i, p. 237. 
Horace Greeley, Recollections of 

a Busy Life, p. 179. 
Memoirs, vol. i, p. 43. 
Memoirs, vol. i, p. 203. 
Memoirs, vol. i, p. 200. 
Horace Greeley, Recollections of 

a Busy Life, p. 181. 
Ralph Waldo Emerson, Jou-r- 

nals, vol. VI, p. 366. 
Ibid. 

Memoirs, vol. i, p. 298. 
Higginson, p. 306. 
Memoirs, vol. i, p. 236. 
Mrs. Cheney, Rem., p. 205. 
Memoirs, vol. i, p, 214. 
Horace Greeley, Recollections of 

a Busy Life, p. 179. 
Love Letters, p. 30. 
Mrs. Cheney, Rem., p. 207. 
Memoirs, vol. i, p. 206. 
Memoirs, vol. i, p. 303. 
Higginson, p. 66. 
Higginson, p. 289. 
Love Letters, p. 28. 
Higginson, p. 100. 
Higginson, p. 59. 
Memoirs, vol. 11, p. 97. 
Love Letters, p. 128. 



37. Memoirs, vol. 11, p. iii. 

38. Julian Hawthorne, Nathaniel 

Hawthorne and His Wife, 
vol. I, p. 261. 

39. Mrs. Cheney, Rem., p. 210. Mrs. 

Cheney quotes the words 
without saying explicitly that 
they are Margaret's. A fine 
phrase in any case. 

40. Memoirs, vol. i, p. 132. 

41. Hedge MS. 

42. Higginson, p. 64. 

43. Higginson, p. 99. 

44. Higginson, p. 123. 

45. Hedge MS. 

46. Hedge MS. 

47. Frederick Augustus Braun, 

Margaret Fuller and Goethe, 
p. 255. 

48. Memoirs, vol. 11, p. 60. 

49. Love Letters, p. 131. 

50. Memoirs, vol. 11, p. 173. 

51. Higginson, p. 307. 

52. Memoirs, vol. 11, p. 53. 

53. Higginson, p. 28. 

54. Higginson, p. 55. 

55. Memoirs, vol. 11, p. 288. 

56. MS., B. P. L. The complete 

distortion of this passage in 
Memoirs, vol. 11, p. 301, is an 
interesting instance of the un- 
reliability of printed texts. 

57. Higginson, p. 104. 

58. Higginson, p. 31. 

59. Memoirs, vol. i, p. 281. 

60. Memoirs, vol. 11, p. 67. 

61. Memoirs, vol. i, p. 288. 

62. Ibid. 

63. Love Letters, p. 100. 

64. Love Letters, p. 130. 

65. Love Letters, p. 187. 



NOTES 



267 



66. Julian Hawthorne, Nathaniel 

Hawthorne and His Wife, 
vol. I, p. 259. 

67. F. B. Sanborn, Recollections of 

Seventy Years, vol. 11, p. 412. 

68. MS., B. P. L. 

69. Memoirs, vpl. 11, p. 294. 



70. MS., B. P. L. 

71. Memoirs, vol. 11, p. 264. 

72. Memoirs, vol. 11, p. 286. 
7Z. MS., B. P. L. 

74. MS., B. P. L. 

75. MS., B. P. L. 



CHAPTER VI: LOUISA MAY ALCOTT 



I. 

2. 
3- 
4. 
5. 
6. 

7. 
8. 

9- 
10. 
II. 
12. 

13- 
14. 

15- 
16. 

I/. 



18. 



19. 

20. 
21. 
22. 
23. 
24. 
25- 

26. 
27. 
28. 



Mrs. Cheney, p. 49. 29. 

Mrs. Cheney, p. 39. 30. 

Mrs. Cheney, p. 108. 31. 

Mrs. Cheney, p. 169. 32. 

Mrs. Cheney, p. 63. Z3- 

Mrs. Cheney, p. 198. 34. 
Little Women, chapter xxxiv. 

Little Women, chapter xxx. 35. 

Mrs. Cheney, p. 389. ^6. 

Mrs. Cheney, p. 321. 37. 

Mrs. Cheney, p. 159. 38. 

Mrs. Cheney, p. 201. 39. 

Little Women, chapter xxix. 40. 

Mrs. Cheney, p. 199. 41. 

Mrs. Cheney, p. 169. 42. 

Mrs. Cheney, p. 316. 43. 

To Maria S. Porter, in NewEng- 44. 

land Magazine, New Series, 45. 

vol. VI, p. 4. 46. 

From Mrs. Alcott's Journal, in 47. 

Life of A. Branson Alcott, by 48. 

F. B. Sanborn and William 49. 

T. Harris, vol. 11, p. 473- 50. 

Mrs. Cheney, p. 300. 51. 

Mrs. Cheney, p. 198. 52. 

Little Women, chapter XLVil. 53- 

Mrs. Cheney, p. 116. 54. 

Mrs. Cheney, p. 37. 55. 

Mrs. Cheney, p. 89. 56. 

Recollections of My Childhood, 57. 

in Lulu's Library, vol. ill. 58. 

Mrs. Cheney, p. 357. 59- 

Shawl Straps, chapter v. 60. 

Ibid. 61. 



Mrs. Cheney, p. 45. 

Mrs. Cheney, p. 88. 

Ibid. 

Mrs. Cheney, p. 179. 

Poppy's Pranks. 

Recollections of my Childhood, 

in Lulu's Library, vol. in. 
Mrs. Cheney, p. 109. 
Mrs. Cheney, p. 81. 
Hospital Sketches, postscript. 
Mrs. Cheney, p. 156. 
Mrs. Cheney, p. 60. 
Mrs. Cheney, p. loi. 
Work, chapter vii. 
Mrs. Cheney, p. 94. 
Ibid. 

Mrs. Cheney, p. 166. 
Mrs. Cheney, p. 197. 
Mrs. Cheney, p. 60. 
Mrs. Cheney, p. 95. 
Mrs. Cheney, p. 88. 
Mrs. Cheney, p. 326. 
Mrs. Cheney, p. 352. 
Mrs. Cheney, p. 399. 
Mrs. Cheney, p. 125. 
Mrs. Cheney, p. 159. 
Mrs. Cheney, p. 270. 
Mrs. Cheney, p. 127. 
Mrs. Cheney, p. 169. 
Mrs. Cheney, p. 152. 
Mrs. Cheney, p. 270. 
Mrs. Cheney, p. 45. 
Mrs. Cheney, p. 273. 
Mrs. Cheney, p. 83. 



268 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN 



62. Mrs. Cheney, p. 108. 

63. Mrs. Cheney, p. 131. 

64. Mrs. Cheney, p. 89. 

65. Mrs. Cheney, p. 370. 

66. Mrs. Cheney, p. 209. 

67. Mrs. Cheney, p. 202. 

68. Mrs. Cheney, p. 105. 



69. Mrs. Cheney, p. 272. 

70. Mrs. Cheney, p. 227. 

71. Hospital Sketches, chapter iii. 

72. Hospital Sketches, chapter iv. 

73. Mrs. Cheney, p. 262. 

74. Correspondance de Voltaire, edi- 

tion 1881, vol. XI, p. 168. 



CHAPTER VII: FRANCES ELIZABETH WILLARD 



9- 
10. 
II. 

12. 
13- 
14. 

15- 
16. 

17. 
18. 
19. 
20. 
21. 
22. 

23- 

24. 

25- 

26. 
27. 

28. 

29. 
30. 
31. 



Glimpses, p. 660. 

Glimpses, p. 4. 

Glimpses, pp. 125, 144. 

Glimpses, p. 633. 

Glimpses, p. 4. 

Glimpses, p. 133. 

Glimpses, p. 77. 

Glimpses, p. 109. 

Glimpses, p. 222- 

Glimpses, p. 687. 

To Mrs. Sarah Knowles Bolton, 

MS. 
Glimpses, p. 151. 
Glimpses, p. 153. 
Glimpses, p. 125. 
Life, p. 40. 
Glimpses, p. 149. 
Glimpses, p. 645. 
Glimpses, p. 72. 
Glimpses, p. 127. 
Glimpses, p. 159. 
Glimpses, p. 103. 
Glimpses, p. 168. 
Glimpses, p. 170. 
Glimpses, p. 177. 
Glimpses, p. 113. 
Mary R. Parkman, Heroines of 

Service, p. iii. 
Glimpses, p. 129. 
Glimpses, p. 363. 
Glimpses, p. 686. 
Glimpses, p. 633. 
yi Li/e 0/ Service, Sketches of 

Frances E. Willard, p. 18. 



32. Glimpses, p. 689. 

33. .^ Li/^ 0/ Service, Sketches of 

Frances E. Willard, p. 28. 

34. Lj/^, p. 318. 

35. A Life of Service, Sketches of 

Frances E<. Willard, p. 15. 

36. Glimpses, p. 68. 
27. Glimpses, p. 131. 

38. Glimpses, p. 518. 

39. Life, p. 55. 

40. A Life of Service, Sketches of 

Frances E. Willard, p. 15. 

41. Hannah Whitall Smith, in 

Glimpses, Introduction, p. v. 

42. Life, p. 318. 

43. Glimpses, Introduction, p. vi. 

44. Life, p. 398. 

45. Glimpses, p. 9. 

46. Glimpses, p. 230. 

47. Glimpses, p. 492. 

48. Glimpses, Introduction, p. v. 

49. Glimpses, p. 687. 

50. Glimpses, p. 625. 

51. Glimpses, p. 690. 

52. Glimpses, p. 593. 

53. Glimpses, p. 499. 

54. Glimpses, p. 125. 

55. Glimpses, p. 627. 

56. Glimpses, pp. 646-649. 

57. Glimpses, p. 632. 

58. Glimpses, p. 633. 

59. Glimpses, p. 340. 



NOTES 



269 



CHAPTER VIII: EMILY DICKINSON 



6. 

7. 
8. 

9. 
10. 
II. 



12. 
13. 

14- 
IS- 
16. 

17. 
18. 
19. 
20. 
21. 
22, 
23- 
24. 
25. 

26. 
27. 
28. 
29. 
30. 
31. 



XI. 



in the At- 

vol. LXVIII, 



Letters, p. 294. 

Letters, p. 248. 

Poems, II, p. 74, 

Mrs. Bianchi, p. 40. 

T, W. Higginson, in the At- 
lantic Monthly, vol. Lxviii 
P- 452. 

Poems, The Single Hound, p. 

Letters, p. 302. 

Letters, p. 94. 

Poems, I, p. 106. 

Mrs. Bianchi, p. 41. 

T. W. Higginson, 
lantic Monthly, 

P- 453- 
Mrs. Bianchi, p. 42. 
Letters, p. 52. 
Letters, p. 237. 
Letters, p. 282. 
Letters, p. 164. 
Letters, p. 171. 

Poems, III, p. 26. 
Letters, p. 181. 
Letters, p. 205. 
Mrs. Bianchi, p. 40, 
Mrs. Bianchi, p. ^y. 
Letters, p. 240. 
Letters, p. 169, 
Mrs. Bianchi, p. 27- 
Letters, p. 255. 
Letters, p. 302. 
Letters, p. 104. 
Letters, p. 167. 
Letters, p. 294. 



32. 
33. 
34. 
35. 
36. 
37. 
38. 
39- 
40. 

41. 

42. 
43. 

44- 
45. 

46. 



49. 
50. 
51. 
52. 
S3. 
54. 
55- 
56. 
57. 
58. 
59. 



Letters, p. 309. 

Letters, p. 6. 

Letters, p. 48. 

Letters, p. 147. 

Letters, p. 67. 

Poems, I, p. 121. 

Letters, p. 171. 

Letters, p. 86. 

r/t^ Single Hound, preface, p. 
xii. 

T/fe Single Hound, preface, p. 
xiv. 

Letters, p. 76. 

Letters, p. 67. 

Letters, p. 249. 

MS., letter in possession of Mr, 
Macgregor Jenkins. 

Mrs. Bianchi, p. 27. 

Letters, p. 106. 

Letters, p. 47. 

Letters, p. 62. 

Letters, p. 149. 

Letters, p. 279. 

Letters, p. 157. 

r/z^ Single Hound, p. 108. 

Letters, p. 303. 

Letters, p. 265. 

Letters, p. 223. 

Poems, III, p. 168. 

Letters, p. 295. 

Second Stanza of the Shake- 
speare Lyric has been slightly 
altered to conform with the 
first. 



INDEX 



INDEX 



Adams, Abigail, wife of John Adams, 
mother of John Quincy Adams, 3; 
girlhood spent in a New England 
parsonage, 3; married life in Wash- 
ington, 3 ; her nature, though strong, 
feminine and maternal, 4-7; her 
home cares excessive, but delight- 
ful to her, 5, 6; lacked book learn- 
ing, 7, 13; teaching of her children 
deeply moral, 7, 8; a woman of so- 
cial tact, 9; her rare power of ex- 
pression, 9, 10; aesthetic sensibility 
not highly developed, 10; her love 
of music and nature, 1 1 ; her whim- 
sical nature, 11, 12; not too stoical 
for a woman, 11, 12; lived in a pe- 
riod of great stress, 12; regretted her 
lack of education, 13; an appreci- 
ative reader, 13, 14; religious big- 
otry abhorrent to her, 15; her thrift, 
17, 18; her courage, 18, 19, 21; her 
political insight, 20; letter to her 
husband quoted, 25, 26; her calm 
acceptance of his defeat, 26; her 
understanding of him, 28, 29; her 
hunger for his affection, 29, 30; pre- 
* eminently a woman, 30. 

Adams, John, President, his power 
and honesty, 22; his egotism, 22; 
quoted, 22, 23; considered scolding 
a duty, 23 ; attitude toward his wife, 
23, 24; dependence upon her, 28, 
29. 

Adams, John Quincy, President, son 
of Abigail Adams, 3; depth of his 
affection for his mother, 8. 

Alcott, Louisa May, her girlhood, 167, 
168; personal characteristics, 170, 
171, 177, 178; her family affection, 
172-75; her feeling for nature, 177; 
subject to exhilaration and de- 
pression, 179, 1 80, 185; matters of 



the heart, 180-82; her ambition, 
183; her methods of work, 184; the 
need of earning money, 186, 187, 
189-91; a preacher, 187, 188; ne- 
cessity and instinct for writing, 
187; success, 191, 193. 

Aldrich, Thomas Bailey, 219, 220. 

Allyn, Miss (Mrs. Francis), friend of 
Sarah Alden Ripley, 43. 

Amiel, Henri Frederic, quoted, 96, 97. 

Arconati, Madame, on Margaret 
Fuller, 139. 

Beecher, Henry Ward, fascination of, 

105, 127; Mrs. Stowe's love for him, 

106. 
Beecher, Lyman, father of Harriet 

Beecher, no, 113, 116, 127; dynamic 

personality, no; a giant of the 

faith, no. 
Bianchi, Mrs. Martha Dickinson, 

niece of Emily Dickinson, 231. 
Bradford, Captain, of Duxbury, father 

of Sarah Alden Ripley, 36. 
Burton, Robert, 244. 
Byron controversy, the, Mrs. Stowe's 

part in, 126. 

Calvinism, earnestness of that creed 

characteristic of Abigail Adams, 15; 

its need of sunshine, 16. 
Cheney, Mrs. Ednah D., 133, 143, 170, 

172, 181. 
Child, Professor F. J., his opinion of 

Sarah Alden Ripley, 35. 
Credo, Margaret Fuller Ossoli, 151. 

Dial, the, 154. 

Diary of John Quincy Adams, quoted, 

8. 
Dickinson, Austen, brother of Emily 

Dickinson, 239. 



274 



INDEX 



Dickinson, Emily, Amherst her life- 
long home, 229, 230; natural reti- 
cence increased by secluded sur- 
roundings, 230, 231; intense love of 
home, 231; love of words in them- 
selves, 231, 232; love for music and 
ability in it, 232; nature her com- 
panion, 232, 233; ability to write 
poetry and prose, 233; thoughts her 
playthings, 233, 234; her fantastic 
dreams, 235; her faith in God, 235, 
236, 251, 255, 256; intellectual 
quality of her love, 238-44; abstract 
interest in life, 244-55; her whim- 
sicality, 246-52; compared with 
Shakespeare's clowns, 247, 248, 256; 
her attitude toward formal religion, 
250, 251; her poetry not a conscious 
attempt, 253. 

Eliot, George, Harriet Beecher Stowe's 
reproach of, 128. 

Emerson, Mary Moody, friend of 
Sarah Alden Ripley, 42. 

Emerson, Ralph Waldo, nephew by 
marriage to Mrs. Ripley, 59; great 
difference in their attitudes toward 
life, 60 ; his comment on Mrs. Ripley, 
60, 61; his religious reaction, 61, 62; 
on Margaret Fuller, 134, 137, 138, 
139, 140, 142; later friendship with 
her, 157- 

Emerson's Journal, passages in, re- 
ferring to Mrs. Ripley, 60. 

Everett, Edward, his opinion of Sarah 
Alden Ripley, 35. 

Fields, James T., tells Miss Alcott she 

"can't write," 190. 
Fiske, Fidelia, Recollections, Mary 

Lj'on quoted in, 84. 
Flambert, Gustave, 244, 245. 
France, Anatole, quoted, iii. 

Goethe, his influence upon Margaret 

Fuller, 146. 
Greeley, Horace, friend of Margaret 

Fuller, 135, 137, 139. 



Hawthorne, Nathaniel, and Margaret 
Fuller, 135, 147; comment on Mar- 
quis Ossoli, 159. 

Hedge, F. H., his analysis of Mrs. 
Ripley's character, 53. 

Helvetius, Madame, friend of Frank- 
hn, ID, 

Higginson, Col. T. W., on Margaret 
Fuller, 140; and Emily Dickinson, 
232, 253. 

Hitchcock, Prof. Edward, 76. 

Hoar, George F,, his Autobiography, 
quoted, 35; comment on Mrs. Rip- 
ley's teaching, 55. 

Howe, Julia Ward, 158. 

Jefferson, Thomas, Abigail Adams's 
animosity toward, 27. 3 

Lamb, Charles, Emily Dickinson 

comparable to, 246, 247. 
Lowell, James Russell, cautions Mrs. 

Stowe, 122, 123 ; on Margaret Fuller, 

135. 
Lyon, Mary, foundress of Mount 
Holyoke College, 67; her grit and 
determination, 67; self-discipline, 
68; her desire to obtain and to im- 
part education, 69-72; her mastery 
of obstacles, 73-77; the realization 
of all her hopes in the opening of 
Mount Holyoke Seminary in 1837, 
78; her discipline dynamic, 80; her 
sympathy, 83; her laughter, 84-86; 
her gift of inspiration, 87; not essen- 
tially a scholar, 87-89; her idea of 
education, 89, 90, 95, 96; her aim 
in teaching, 90, 91 ; her religion, 92- 
97. 

Mann, Horace, on Margaret Fuller, 

134, 135- 

Mather, Cotton, Magnolia, 108. 

Melodrama, 125. 

Moliere, dramas of, criticised by Abi- 
gail Adams, 13, 14. 

Montague, Lady Mary, Abigail Ad- 
ams comparable to, 10. 



INDEX 



275 



New England conscience, the, 124. 

Ossoli, Margaret Fuller, 133; her per- 
sonal appearance, 134; her four- 
square egotism, 135-37, I45, 146; 
could be all things to all men, 137, 
138; her power of stimulation, 139- 
41; her faculty of eliciting con- 
fession, 142; her gift of analysis, 
144, 145; her studies, 148-50; her 
Credo, 151; her appreciation of na- 
ture, 152, 153; her place in litera- 
ture, 153, 154; always a lover, 154- 
61; a prudent manager, 155; her re- 
lation with Emerson, 156, 157; 
marriage to Marquis Ossoli, 159; 
birth of her son, 160; in the Italian 
revolution, 161, 162; lost in ship- 
wreck, 163. 

Ossoli, Marquis, husband of Margaret 
Fuller, 159. 

Pater, Walter, Imaginary Portrait, Se- 
bastian van Stork quoted, 64. 

Penn's Hill, 19. 

Phelps, Elizabeth Stuart, anecdote of 
Mrs. Stowe, 117. 

Religion: Abigail Adams abhorred 
bigotry, 15; Mrs. Ripley's religious 
experiences, 38, 51, 52, 58, 59, 61, 
62; Mary Lyon's attitude toward, 
92-97; the great activity of Mrs. 
Stowe, 109-14; literature the nat- 
ural expression for preaching, 117; 
Margaret Fuller's Credo, 151 ; Louisa 
Alcott a preacher, 187, 188; Frances 
Willard's religion an art, 207; Em- 
ily Dickinson's attitude toward 
religion, 235, 236, 250, 251, 255, 
256. 

Ripley, Sarah Alden, her passion for 
all kinds of study, 35, 36, 47, 88; 
her freedom from conventional 
habit, 37, 38; her religious inde- 
pendence, 38; her freedom from 
pedantry, 39, 40; early death of her 
mother, 40; her consequent house- 



hold cares, 40; her analysis of peo- 
ple, 41, 42; her marriage to Samuel 
Ripley, 43; prominence of sorrow in 
her old age, 45; her affection for her 
home circle, 47, 48; quoted, 49; re- 
linquished a life of study for one of 
housekeeping, 50; her life as a 
clergyman's wife, 51, 52; teaching, 
53-55; her pupils' love for her, 55; 
her thirst for pure knowledge, 57, 
58; her skepticism, 58, 59; her skep- 
ticism contrasted with Emerson's 
faith, 61, 62; her love of study en- 
tirely disinterested, 63, 64. 

Rollins's Ancient History, 7. 

Rubens, Peter Paul, Mrs. Stowe's 
conversion to, 128. 

Russell, Lady, Abigail Adams com- 
parable to, 24. 

Sainte-Beuve, quoted, 47. 

Sevigne, Madame de, Abigail Adams 
comparable to, 6, 10. 

Shakespeare's clowns, brothers to 
Emily Dickinson, 247, 248, 256. 

Staal-Delaunay, Madame de, Mrs. 
Stowe's contrast to, 105. 

Stowe, Prof. Calvin E., husband of 
Harriet Beecher, 108. 

Stowe, Harriet Beecher, born and 
grew up in religious atmosphere, 
loi ; her nervous temperament, 102- 
04; her liking for people recipro- 
cated, 105, 121; her passionate yet 
reserved nature, 107; not a great 
scholar, 108, 109; religion her great 
concern, 109-14; her desire to "do 
something," 1 14-16; the pen her 
best implement, 117-20; her suc- 
cess, 121, 122; a student of character 
and manners, 123, 124; a furious 
preacher, 125-27; her part in the 
Byron controversy, 126; a sunny, 
human person, 127; her sense of 
beauty, 128, 129. 

Thoreau, H. D., 58. 

TroUope, Anthony, quoted, 125. 



276 



INDEX 



Uttcle Tom's Cabin, Harriet Beecher 
Stowe, influence of, 129, 130. 

Voltaire, quoted, 193, 206. 

Waltham, Mr. Ripley's parish at, 51. 
Watts, Isaac, Moral Songs for Children, 

9- 

Willard, Frances Elizabeth, her hered- 
itYi 197; her excellent health, 198; 
strongly individual, 199; had strik- 
ing social qualities, 200; very affec- 
tionate, 201, 202; her juvenile read- 
ing, 204; a fearless analyst, 205; 
feeling for music, 206; her religion 



an art, 207; a worker for humanity, 
207; the cause of temperance, 208; 
her gift of organization, 209; her 
eloquence, 209, 210; her tact, 211; 
what prohibition did for her, 213- 
16; unfailing hope, 217; her per- 
sonal motives, 218; her ambition, 
219; her self-consciousness, 220—22; 
her enjoyment of her work, 222- 

25. 
Willard, May, sister of Frances E^ 

Willard, 205. 
Woman's Christian Temperance 

Union, Frances E. Willard head of, 

212. 



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